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In 1973, Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures purchased a selection of works from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, one of the oldest Native American-owned art and craft cooperatives in the United States. In this paper, I discuss, from my perspective as co-curator, the development of the museum’s 2015 exhibition of that collection, Cherokee Craft, 1973. Through this project, the curatorial team sought to creatively evoke the Qualla cooperative at the dynamic historical moment these works represented, while also contending with significant resource limitations. What resulted was an exhibit organized around the concept of a moment in time. This alternative presentation strategy gave us an opportunity to explore a variety of important topics and ongoing processes specific to the institution in the early 1970s. In this paper, I discuss how this approach allowed us to present a plurality of voices, while also showcasing many of the cooperative’s most renowned makers. I also position Cherokee Craft, 1973 as an exhibit curated by graduate students for a university audience: it was a site of innovation and representational experimentation for its creators, unique to its institutional type and its own particular moment in time.
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