Museum of Northern Arizona exterior

Museum of Northern Arizona, Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology Lead Global Initiative

(Flagstaff, Ariz.) December 4, 2014 – The Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) is partnering with the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) in Osaka, Japan to help lead a global initiative to improve the depth, quality, and authenticity of museums’ information about their ethnographic collections and the communities from which they come.

“Museums must deepen and enrich information about the cultural context of objects within their collections,” said Dr. Robert Breunig, MNA’s President and CEO. “Ethnographic information about objects within our and other museums’ collections is lacking. One way to deepen the understanding of objects within our collections is to deepen our relationship with source communities.”

Currently, Minpaku’s curator Dr. Atsunori Ito is visiting MNA to document and photograph the museum’s 450-piece Hopi overlay jewelry collection. Dr. Ito is a specialist on Hopi overlay and reviewing MNA’s early pieces is one of his research priorities. The museum’s collection has particular significance because this style of Hopi jewelry had its origins at the museum in the late 1930’s through the influence of museum co-founder Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton and art curator Virgil Hubert. Once photographing is complete, Ito will work with Hopi artists to document the cultural information of each piece. It is a process that relies on a strong partnership with the tribe.

Minpaku needed to collaborate with source communities for this project and our museum does not have a relationship with the Hopi,” said Ito. “We chose the Museum of Northern Arizona due to its long history of promoting and creating Hopi arts and crafts.”

This pilot relationship is the first in a series of partnerships between Minpaku and museums world-wide.

On July 4, 2014, MNA and Minpaku signed an agreement providing for the development of collaborative research projects that promote programs with museums and source communities that foster better communication, information sharing, partnerships, and improvement of the quality of ethnographic records. The first manifestations of the academic agreement occurred in October 2014, when Dr. Robert Breunig and the museum’s Danson Curator of Anthropology, Kelley Hays-Gilpin, travelled to Osaka to participate in an international conference on museum-source community collaborations. Breunig and Hays-Gilpin gave the keynote address, drawing upon MNA’s history of collaboration with regional tribal communities. They also participated in a collections review of Minpaku’s Hopi kachina collection with four Hopi colleagues.


About the Museum of Northern Arizona

The Museum of Northern Arizona inspires a sense of love and responsibility for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau. Founded in 1928, the 200-acre campus includes an historic exhibit building with nine galleries showcasing the geology, anthropology and art of the region; research and collections facilities; a world-class museum shop; and more than 450 public programs annually. To learn more, visit or call (928) 774-5213.