Tackling the Archiving of Pablita Velarde Collection

Pablita Velarde (1918-2006), Heard Museum Billie Jane Baguley Library & Archives

In the back of the Heard Museum, in a room all to itself, is a recreation of the working studio of Pablita Velarde, one of the country’s most famous Native American artists. Visitors can see the artist’s metate for grinding pigments along with jars of ground minerals. They can see the sewing machine she used to make tiny boots for Pueblo dolls and a photograph on her easel.

What they don’t see is what is going on in the Heard Museum Library where volunteer Marcia Mason works two days a week as the archivist for the Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts research collection. “The Velarde collection was about six boxes of materials when we got it in 2015,” Marcia says, “but it has since grown and there is more to come.”

Marcia opens each box and numbers each individual item, which includes photographs, clippings, ribbons and original correspondence. She enters the items one by one as she builds a computer data base for the resource collection. “A lot of these materials came in scrap books,” says Marcia. “I took them out and numbered each one. It was a monster of a job.”

“I’ve fallen in love with Pablita Velarde,” says Marcia. She expects to find materials on Pablita’s daughter and granddaughter as she opens additional boxes. There’s no end in sight for this project at the moment and Marcia’s fine with that.