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Museum of Ventura County Receives Grant to Rehouse 144 Native American Baskets

Tue, 11 Feb 2020 22:14:55 GMT

The Museum of Ventura County announced this week that it has received funding to rehouse 144 Native American baskets representing tribes such as the Chumash, Pima, Navajo, and Hupa. Native baskets are highly sought after by collectors and one of the Museum's most valuable collections. A portion of the collection is currently featured in the exhibit Woven Earth, on display in the Smith Gallery. In addition, the collection is frequently requested for loans, research and exhibition so their preservation is a top priority. Baskets are comprised of organic materials and plant fibers like juncus and spruce root and as such, are highly susceptible to agents of deterioration. Local philanthropists John and Stephanie Orr donated much of the cost of the new shelving units, with a portion of the cost being covered by funding received from the County of Ventura. The Museum received the funds after the Museum’s Collections Manager Renee Tallent completed a conservation assessment that uncovered several concerning issues with the collection’s current housing. “The baskets are curren tly housed in particle board, open shelving in the Collections Department,” says Collections Manager Renee Tallent. “Particle board emits gases such as formaldehyde and other synthetic contaminates that degrade organic materials.” Included in the collection is a bowl basket found on Hummingbird Ranch in Simi Valley in 1965. This coiled bowl with vertical sides is made in the Chumash style using three rod juncus and is completely coated on the outside with pitch. Not only do the baskets highlight the skillful aesthetic heritage of the Chumash people, they also represent women’s contribution to the arts in Ventura County. The collection includes pieces by Chumash women Petra Pico and Candelaria Rios, both domestic workers in Ventura with masterful weaving abilities. “The Museum could not be more grateful for John and Stephanie Orr’s contribution to help safekeep this important and irreplaceable collection. Their support is allowing the Museum to move forward its goal of protecting and caring for the County’s history and preserving our Chumash objects is at the core of that mission,” says Barbara Barnard Smith Executive Director Elena Brokaw. Currently on view at the Museum of Ventura County is Woven Earth, displaying a wide range of hand-woven baskets from the Museum’s extensive collection that focuses on California’s native communities and the traditions involved in making these baskets. Woven Earth is open through February 23, 2020.