By Zachary Nelson
Contemporary Native American artwork is displayed throughout three floors of the University of Washington Bothell/Cascadia College Campus Library, promoting a variety of artists from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest region. But this is more than just decorative artwork — it is an interactive collection that encourages viewers to discover more about art and artists.
Almost every display has a link with a QR code so that visitors can also look at the art through the library's digital art collection, which includes images of the paintings, prints, totem poles, masks and carvings. The digital collection also features information about who the artist is, the tribal affiliation, and what materials were used in making the artwork.
“We want this art to be a celebration of native culture but also to inspire people to research the history of colonization,” said Sarah Leadley, director of the library. Some examples of suggested research topics include first contacts between Europeans and Native peoples, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the development of the reservation system in the 1850s and the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
“I love seeing the artwork in the library,” said Ashley Sandoval, a pre-major who loves spending time in the library. “I think it’s so interesting, and it drew my attention to native cultures.”
According to Leadley, students also experience the art when it is integrated into UW Bothell and Cascadia College classes. Students in one biology class, for example, were asked to research where the Native American art was from and explain how the art related to the ecosystem.
Leadley said. “They then had to write essays on their findings and create signs to be displayed next to the Native art, summarizing their research. This way the public could also be informed on what the students had learned, making it a community engagement project.”
Known as the Rose Collection, the artwork was donated to the library by Norman Jenisch and Louise R. Rose. Norman Rose was a dean and vice provost of UW Bothell from 1994-1998. Members of the Rose family would often make trips to Alaska to meet with Native artists in person, and over the years they formed close relationships with many Native artists and bought hundreds of pieces of their art.
To share their love of Native art with the campus community, the family donated part of their collection to the campus library. Their hope is to support Native cultures by inspiring others to learn more about Native American art, culture and history.