Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

NEMPN Awards IAIA with Best Museum Studies Program


January 10, 2022

Santa Fe, New Mexico, January 7, 2022 - The National Emerging Museum Professionals Network (NEMPN), a major nonprofit, has launched its very first awards program in order to "recognize individuals and institutions who have shown outstanding service to emerging museum professionals." For the Inaugural EMP Awards the Institute of American Indian Arts' (IAIA) Museum Studies Department has received an award for Best Museum Studies Program. For this category, three museum studies degree/certificate programs in the nation were recognized for the diversity and inclusiveness of their programs and the quality education and training they provide to emerging museum professionals. The other two were The Cooperstown Graduate Program and The University of Washington Museology Master of Arts Program.

Balzer Contemporary Edge Gallery Director Mattie Reynolds (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) explains that the national recognition from this award expands museum professional networks exponentially. "We'll not only have more people and organizations exposed to IAIA, but this also exposes our students to NEMPN," Reynolds says. "We're one of the oldest Museum Studies programs at a school in the country, so it's a very well-established program. Larger nonprofits and organizations that are dedicated to museum professionals and the field highlighting what IAIA does helps get our name out there as a competitive program for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous museum professionals." Currently, New Mexico is beginning their own NEMPN affiliate chapter through the New Mexico Association of Museums (NMAM), according to Reynolds. This will be an extraordinary resource for current students and recent graduates in museum studies programs in New Mexico and it exemplifies the exponential network growth that Reynolds speaks of.

What makes IAIA's Museum Studies program stand out as one of the best programs in the country is its Indigenous approach to learning as well as its practical, hands-on methods which readily prepare emerging museum professionals for work in the field straight out of the program. "Our program is focused on Indigenous ways of knowing and practice, as well as ethical and moral approaches to museum work," says Reynolds. "This makes us really unique. We teach our students the traditional Western way to do things in the museum, and then we tell them to unlearn all that and we teach them a more Indigenous approach to museum work." This well-rounded, inclusive methodology places emerging museum professionals at an advantage, whether they are new to the museum field or looking to expand their knowledge in the field.

While students in IAIA's Museum Studies program receive their share of theory, the hands-on applications in the curriculum exceed that of other programs. "We're very logically structured to support museum professionals right off the bat," says Reynolds. "Working in the gallery, for example, is one of the required classes. Students get a lot of experience installing and deinstalling exhibitions. We also have collections care and conservation classes. This practical, applicable approach to learning museology is very unique."

This awards program comes as part of NEMPN's rebranding they underwent at the beginning of the year. As another part of their rebranding, they have officially changed their title to the acronym, and as this act has reminded them of IHOP, the trophy for the Inaugural EMP Awards will be an engraved bottle of maple syrup. "I'm thinking of maybe having a pancake feast so we can use up our maple syrup award," says Reynolds. The announcement of the Inaugural EMP Awards can be viewed on the NEMPN website.

For questions or more information, please contact IAIA Director of Communications Jason S. Ordaz at

Photography: Museum Studies Students in the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) Collection; Museum Studies Department Chair Mattie Reynolds (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma). Photographs by Jason S. Ordaz.

About the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is the only college in the world dedicated to the study of contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts. IAIA offers undergraduate degrees in Cinematic Arts and Technology, Creative Writing, Indigenous Liberal Studies, Museum Studies, Performing Arts, and Studio Arts; graduate degrees in Creative Writing and Studio Arts; and certificates in Broadcast Journalism, Business and Entrepreneurship, Museum Studies, and Native American Art History. The college serves approximately 500 full-time equivalent (FTE) Native and non-Native American students from around the globe, representing nearly a hundred federally recognized tribes. Named one of the top art institutions by UNESCO and the International Association of Art, IAIA is among the leading art institutes in our nation and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).


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