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Local Elementary Students Visit Pomona College Native American Study Center, Home to More Than 6,000 Artifacts

Students studying an embroidered and beaded Sioux jacket, c. 1910

Students studying an embroidered and beaded Sioux jacket, c. 1910

Third-graders study collection of arrowheads, arrowpoints, and stone cutting tools.

Third-graders study collection of arrowheads, arrowpoints, and stone cutting tools. Photo: Michelle Chan

Students examine hide painting by Kiowa artist Silverhorn. Photo: Michelle Chan.

Students examine hide painting by Kiowa artist Silverhorn. Photo: Michelle Chan.

The Pomona College Museum of Art’s Native American Collection Study Center (NACSC) provides a portal into the rich resources of 6,000 artifacts of Native American art. “Awesome,” is how at least one third-grader described his trip through the Center’s storage and study spaces earlier today when all third-graders from Mountain View Elementary School got an up close look at intricately beaded moccasins and ceremonial shirts, a feather headdress, rugs and arrowheads, among other items.

The Study Center provides a unique opportunity for close examination without the barriers normally needed for public display, giving visitors – students, faculty and select members of the public – intimate contact with original works of art and artifacts. The space is both a storage area and classroom, with open table space and walls for short-term display of objects outside of traditional exhibition.

Over the past year and a half, NACSC staff have facilitated discussions and led presentations relating to the Center's collection for the local schools of the Claremont Unified School District (CUSD). The curriculum was developed with community stakeholders, teachers from four local schools (El Roble Intermediate School, Oakmont Outdoor School, Sycamore Elementary, and Vista del Valle Elementary) and museum education consultant Rich Neely.

During the Outreach Pilot Year, age-appropriate, Neely delivered object-based activities both in class and on site at Oakmont Elementary School, Vista del Valle Elementary and El Roble Intermediate School. Lessons utilized Visual Thinking Strategies observation techniques to begin to make connections between the objects in the Center and the content students were learning the classroom.

Now its second academic year, the Pilot Project has expanded to serve classes from Mountain View, Sumner and Sycamore Elementary Schools. Because of limited capacity, Pomona College Museum of Art personnel have prioritized work with CUSD’s area Title 1 Schools serving larger percentages of low-income economically disadvantaged students. The focus remains on testing activities to help support critical thinking skills through object-based observation that staff hopes to offer to more schools in the region.

The NACSC, located on the lower level of Bridges Auditorium, is open by appointment only. Museum staff hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. To contact the NACSC, email Steve Comba, associate director of the Museum of Art, at scomba@pomona.edu.

Pomona College, founded in 1887, is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges. Located in Claremont, CA, the College is known for the close relationships between students and faculty and a range of opportunities for hands-on student research. Pomona College has need-blind admissions and meets the full financial need of accepted students with scholarships.

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