The Institute of American Indian Arts’ (IAIA) art collection grew out of a student honors program. With the help of donations from outside artists and private collectors, the collection provided a catalyst for the formation of a museum in 1972. Until IAIA acquired the Federal Building in Santa Fe in January 1990, however, exhibits were confined to borrowed quarters at the Santa Fe Indian School campus, and most holdings remained in storage.
Turning the Federal Building into a major American Indian art museum meant rescuing it from years of neglect and stylistic atrophy. Architects restored the exterior of the 1922 Pueblo Revival-style building and completely remodeled its interiors. Beyond the intimate transitional galleries and classrooms for museum studies, a series of galleries that housed the Institute’s remarkable National Collection of Contemporary Native Art were also built into the space.
In 1992 IAIA relocated its museum to downtown Santa Fe. The space underwent an extensive renovation in 2004 and reopened in mid-2005 as a newly dynamic setting for exhibitions, educational programs and cross-cultural dialogue.
For years the museum had only 4,000 square feet of exhibition space on the ground floor, as its second floor was devoted to staff offices and collection storage. In 2010, that situation was remedied when the permanent collection moved to a new facility on the IAIA campus (12 miles south of its current location) freeing up an additional 3,600 square feet for programming.
The new collection storage facility, which occupies 7,000 square feet of the new science and technology building on IAIA’s campus, will promote best practices in collections care and adjoin conservation labs where IAIA museum studies students, faculty and visiting scholars may receive hands-on experience working with professional staff and instructors to care for the collection.