Rare Indian Artifacts Were at Risk in Deteriorating NPS Buildings

With a $10 billion maintenance backlog, the National Park Service is struggling to make do as aging buildings deteriorate. This week it shuttered the Grand Teton's Indian Arts Museum, because uncontrolled humidity and other conditions there were ruining a world-class collection of ancient Native American artifacts.

"The National Park Service quietly shuttered a museum at Grand Teton National Park this week, removing a world-class collection of ancient Native American artifacts donated by the Rockefeller family nearly four decades ago.

The Indian Arts Museum had been housed inside the park's Colter Bay Visitor Center since 1972, containing a priceless array of rare artifacts representing the cultural ancestry of more than 100 American Indian tribes from virtually every region of the country.

While the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., is larger and better-known, Grand Teton's Indian Arts Museum stood out because of the quality of items on display and the fact that the collection of clothes, jewelry, musical instruments, tools and toys gave visitors unparalleled insight into the daily lives and customs of the earliest Americans. ...

Yet at least for now, the nearly 1,500 items known as the David T. Vernon Collection -- named for their original collector, a Chicago illustrator and friend of the Rockefeller family -- have been indefinitely removed from display while the Park Service works to address long-standing deficiencies in the visitor center building that threatened to ruin the very artifacts the museum was established to preserve."

Scott Streater reports for Greenwire October 13, 2011.

Source: Greenwire, 10/14/2011