Situated in Phoenix, Arizona, the Heard Museum is a privately operated, not-for-profit institution devoted to promoting the growth and appreciation of American Indian art. Through immersive exhibits and a diverse range of traditional and contemporary artworks created by American Indian artists or those influenced by their art, the museum showcases the rich narratives and cultural heritage of American Indian people. By collaborating closely with American Indian artists and tribal communities, the Heard Museum offers visitors a unique and authentic perspective on Native art, with a particular focus on the artistry of Southwest Native people.
With a mission to be the foremost museum in the world for the presentation, interpretation, and advancement of American Indian art, the Heard Museum emphasizes the connections between this art form and broader artistic and cultural themes. Recognized as a Phoenix Point of Pride, the museum’s main location in Phoenix serves as a testament to its significance and impact in the community.
Previously, the Heard Museum operated two additional branches: the Heard Museum West branch in Surprise, which closed its doors in 2009, and the Heard Museum North Scottsdale branch in Scottsdale, Arizona, which ceased operations in May 2014.
Established in 1929 by Dwight B. and Maie Bartlett Heard, the Heard Museum was originally created to house the couple’s personal art collection. A significant portion of the archaeological artifacts in their collection originated from the La Ciudad Indian ruin, which the Heards acquired in 1926 at the intersection of 19th and Polk streets in Phoenix.
The museum’s architectural design includes contributions from Bennie Gonzales, who also designed Scottsdale City Hall. What began as a small museum in a southwestern town has since flourished in size and reputation, gaining international recognition for the exceptional quality of its collections, educational programs, and festivals.
The present-day Heard Museum boasts an extensive collection of over 40,000 items, including a library and archives with more than 34,000 volumes. Its facilities encompass over 130,000 square feet (12,000 m²) of gallery space, classrooms, and performance areas. Notable exhibits include “Home: Native Peoples in the Southwest,” the Mareen Allen Nichols Collection of contemporary jewelry with 260 pieces, the Barry Goldwater Collection featuring 437 historic Hopi kachina dolls, and an exhibition shedding light on the boarding school experiences of Native Americans during the 19th century. This particular exhibit, commended by The New York Times, effectively portrays the little-known chapter of forcibly relocating children from reservations to government schools in an attempt to eradicate their culture and “civilize” them.
With an annual visitation of approximately 250,000 individuals, the Heard Museum has become a prominent cultural destination. It holds affiliation with the Smithsonian Affiliations program and has had notable directors, including Dr. Letitia Chambers, the first American Indian director, and James Pepper Henry, a member of the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Muscogee Creek Nation. Currently, the museum is under the leadership of David M. Roche, who assumed the position in January 2016.
The Heard Museum is also a member of the North American Reciprocal Museums program, allowing for reciprocal benefits and access to other participating museums.