Harry Walters - Director of the Diné College Museum, 1973-2008

Before becoming the Director of the Diné College Museum in Arizona, Harry Walters spent three months at the Smithsonian learning techniques for the care and handling of artifacts, including their identification, description, conservation, storage, and exhibition.

Black and white image of Harry Walters, Navajo male, holding a blanket in a museum collection storag

In 1973, Harry Walters, Navajo, participated in a new program at the Smithsonian designed to develop Indigenous Peoples' interest in becoming archivists, librarians, museum professionals, and historians. Individuals participating in the concentrated three-month program were exposed to Smithsonian historical materials related to Indigenous Peoples, including photographs, manuscripts, books, and works of art, and were given an introduction to library and archival training.

He was among a group of eight persons selected with the approval of their tribal councils to participate in the pilot phase of the program, jointly sponsored by the Cultural Studies Section of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) and the Office of Academic Studies. Dr. Herman Viola, Director, NAA, initiated the program, which he hoped would provide a platform for Indigenous Peoples to be better acquainted with national reference and resource agencies.

Walters spent his time at the Smithsonian learning techniques for the care and handling of artifacts, including their identification, description, conservation, storage, and exhibition. He intended to establish and curate a Navajo museum at the Navajo Community College (now Diné College) in Tsaile, Arizona.

Herman Viola at "Magnificent Voyagers"

Walters also spent six months at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City before going on to serve as the Director of the Diné College Museum from 1973 to 2008. The museum itself is located within the Ned A. Hatathli Cultural Center on the Tsaile Campus of Diné College and features mutiple audio-visual exhibitions as well as hosts traveling exhibitions, workshops, and lectures. The permanent collection contains manuscripts, films, audio recordings, photographs, and Navajo and other tribal artifacts.

An oral history interview with Walters was conducted by students of Diné College and Winona State University in 2009.


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