Native American Collections Digital Resource Pilot Project

by | May 28, 2023 | Articles

The Henry Luce Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to the Ralph T. Coe Center to fund the Coe’s Native American Collections Digital Resource Pilot Project.

The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts has received a $100,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support a pilot project aimed at revitalizing its Collection Management System. The pilot project will focus on making the database more culturally accurate and inclusive, reflecting multiple perspectives and communities represented within the collection. As part of the pilot program, the Coe Center will collaborate with living artists, relatives, and communities represented in the collection to gather culturally relevant information and narratives. This process will help to ensure that the collection accurately represents and respects Native American cultures and traditions. The Coe Center will facilitate meetings, on-site visits, and documentation through a digital archive process.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Luce Foundation, which will enable us to take an important step towards making our collection more culturally accurate and inclusive,” said Rachel de W. Wixom, Executive Director of the Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts. “We hope this pilot program will serve as a model for similar organizations and contribute to a process that reasserts authorship to Native American artists and community members.”

Guest Collaborators

Diné Hataałii Association
Dr. Michael Lerna, Daniel Johnson, Anson Etsitty, Dr. Avery Denny, and Emery Denny (not pictured)
September 2023

Find the Diné Hataałii Association Online:


The Coe Center was honored to host the Diné Hataałii Association on Monday, September 19th. We invited the group to look at the Navajo items in the collection as a part of our ongoing work with a pilot program funded by the Henry Luce Foundation grant.

Bobby Lynn Qalutaksraq Brower (Inupiaq/Native Village of Barrow)
August 2023

Find Bobby Online:
Instagram: @arcticluxe_


Bobby Brower is Inupiaq and is an enrolled member of the Native Village of Barrow tribe in Utqiagvik, Alaska. She currently lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. She specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces that are handmade by the artist. Her older daughters have learned a few of the techniques and help her as well. She also designs ready-to-wear fashions.

As early as she can remember, Brower’s life has been surrounded by art. Her uncle would carve baleen and ivory and make beautiful jewelry. Her grandmother Emily was also an expert seamstress. Brower’s mother learned sewing techniques from her mother Maryjane who had learned from Brower’s grandmother Emily. Then taught Brower those same techniques.

After High School, Brower had her first child. Then took up sewing with her aunt Florence Brower. Florence inspired her to start skin sewing again. Growing up in her community, she learned to skin sew at the age of 13 during her Inupiat Language class. Brower’s aunt had convinced her to enter the Top of the World baby contest they hold every 4th of July. Over the years, Brower continued sewing and eventually started her small business Hallelujah Designs in 2010. Since then, she has changed the name over to Bobby Itta Designs, and now is Arctic Luxe.

In 2015, Brower decided to sign up for a fashion show with the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This was her start in fashion. Since then, she has shown her work all over Alaska, Washington, New Mexico, New York, and Canada.

Itta has work in the permanent collection of The International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also is an advocate for MMIWGS, and is working on a touring exhibit with the Bunnell Arts Street Center in Homer, Alaska.

Melissa Shaginoff (Ahtna and Paiute)
August 2023

Find Melissa Online:
Instagram: @mshaginoff


Melissa Shaginoff is Ahtna and Paiute from Nay’dini’aa Na Kayax (Chickaloon Village, AK). Her work is shaped by the framework and intricacies of Indigenous ceremonies and social structures. Melissa utilizes visiting in her art practice, searching for deeper understanding through moments of exchange and reciprocity. Melissa has completed residencies in New Mexico, Sweden, Italy, Canada, and Alaska. She has curated and juried art exhibitions with the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Pacific University, the University of Alaska Anchorage, the Coe Center, the Fairbanks Art Association, and the International Folk Art Museum. Melissa is also curating and operating the Kuzuundze’ ts’eghaanden Gallery.

An Indigenous-centered space that supports Elders, youth, and emerging artists interested in developing their exhibition readiness. Melissa has been published in the Alaska Humanities FORUM Magazine, First American Art Magazine, Inuit Art Quarterly, and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center’s Learning Lab. She is a founding member of Luk’ae Tse’ Taas (fish head soup) Comics, a new media collective focused on BIPOC representation in printed narratives. Melissa reclaims power for Indigenous peoples through movements of Land Back and what she calls an eclipsing of Land Acknowledgements. Working with settler communities on her traditional homelands, she is actively part of returning land to Indigenous ownership. Melissa has also created a Land Acknowledgement workshop that is aimed at settler labor and acts of reparations.


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