Smithsonian Institution Archives

American Association of Museums Centennial Oral History Interviews,
2006

1 results in SIA.FARU9620 for "Blanchard, Melanie, interviewer"
Record
Date
Container
Interview of W. Richard West (1943- ) by Melanie M. Blanchard at his office at the NMAI covers where he was born and grew up, his family and cultural background, and the area in which he was raised. West discusses his experience as a member of the Cheyenne culture; and recounts stories of how he and his brother were influenced by their parents, relatives, and also the campus community at Bacone College. He recalls his father's art and art career, especially how the senior Mr. West's work was exhibited, how he used museum and gallery visits as educational experiences for Mr. West and his brother, and also how the senior Mr. West viewed the concept of American Indian art in relation to traditional art. Mr. West discusses the three pieces of his father's artwork which hang in his office at NMAI. He reminiscences about a visit that he and his brother made with their father to New York City in 1956 to film a movie called Off to Adventure. On this trip, the senior Mr. West took his sons to view the collection of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. Mr. West next focuses on his educational and professional background, including his degrees, both in American history, at the University of Redlands in California and Harvard University. Mr. West then pursued a law career, graduating from Stanford University School of Law and working at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, and Jacobson. His move to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1988 is briefly discussed. Mr. West's career with the National Museum of the American Indian began in 1990 with his appointment as the founding director. He also discusses the first issues he dealt with as a new director of a museum of such a unique character as the NMAI, including some of his mentors, problems encountered in the creation of NMAI, and tasks that the Museum had to take on in order to create the current museum. The Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) and the National Museum of the American Indian Act (1989) are touched upon with a story concerning a speech given to an American Association of Museums session concerning repatriation. He then discusses exhibition issues with the NMAI collection, both at the George Gustav Heye Center in New York and the NMAI on the National Mall. The interview closes with Mr. West presenting his view of the future of the NMAI and also the future for Mr. West himself, including issues of cultural exhibitions, the relationship of American Indians to the collections, and the role of the founding director of such an institution, c. 1940s-2006.
Interviews