The Department of Anthropology recently received a very important donation of 4 historic and 38 contemporary Navajo rugs from Nance and Mel Donaldson. The Donaldsons assembled their collection during the 1980s and 1990s, and acquired beautiful examples of most of the regional styles of rugs woven by today’s Navajo weavers. Included in the collection are examples by some of the most important weavers of that period, including Mae Jim and Sadie Curtis, both of whom excelled in weaving Ganado style rugs, Larry Nathaniel, a male weaver who produces tapestry-weight rugs in the Two Grey Hills style, Barbara Benally who weaves large sandpainting rugs, and Marjorie Spencer and her daughter, Geneva Shabi, who weave intricate Wide Ruins style rugs. Several of the rugs won awards at the New Mexico State Fair and the Navajo Nation Fair. Other styles represented are Storm Pattern, Chinle, Crystal, Raised Outline, Teec Nos Pos, Pictorial, Burntwater, Yei, and Yeibichai, and several saddle blankets. The four historic examples include two rugs from the 1890s that are woven of Germantown yarn, a type of commercial yarn that was produced in Germantown, a suburb of Philadelphia, in the late 1800s and then made available to Navajo weavers through trading posts.
This generous donation adds considerable depth to the Academy’s Navajo rug collection, in terms of the individual weavers who are represented, the period in which these rugs were produced, and in the range of regional styles. Previously, the Academy’s collection had only a few Navajo rugs that were woven after the mid-1960s, and relatively few that clearly illustrated the various regional styles, most of which are based on particular designs and/or colors and are often named for a particular trading post on the Navajo Reservation.
To view these rugs, click here.