Wheelwright Announces Dr. Henrietta Lidchi as New Director

Dear Members and Friends of the Wheelwright,

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Staff, I am delighted to share the news of the appointment of Henrietta Lidchi, Ph.D., as the new Director of the museum. She will assume her post in September 2022.

Dr. Lidchi will bring her notable scholarly, curatorial, and management experience to Santa Fe in service to the mission of the museum: to respect and support, and to record and present, the living traditions and creative expressions of Native American peoples. Lidchi currently serves as Head of Research and Collections/Chief Curator at the National Museum of World Cultures (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen) (NMVW) The Netherlands. Prior to that she was Keeper of the Department of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh, and Deputy Keeper of the Department of Ethnography, British Museum, London, working on Native American collections.

Dr. William G. Howard, Wheelwright Board President, said, “Dr. Lidchi has extensive experience working in collections, exhibitions and with living artists, all of which will greatly enhance her directives at the Wheelwright. With her international background and global perspective, her worldview can help shape and provide vision for the institution for the future while acknowledging the museum’s unique sense of place and deep connection to the American Southwest. We are thrilled to welcome her to Santa Fe and to the Wheelwright family this fall.”

Dr. Lidchi stated, “It is an enormous honor to be selected as the Director of the Wheelwright Museum, an institution I know well, whose collections and archives I have had the pleasure of consulting and whose programming and academic work I have long admired. I very much look forward to working with the staff, trustees, volunteers and the communities that it serves who together have a passion for the field of Native arts that I have long shared and is evident in everything the Wheelwright does.”

Nathan Youngblood (Santa Clara), Wheelwright Trustee, Chair of the Director Search Committee said, “As the result of an extensive search guided by an executive search firm, and with the goal of identifying and selecting from the best available candidates with significant experience in the field of Native American art, our Search Committee was thrilled to recommend Henrietta Lidchi to the Board as our choice for the Director position. Henrietta is an eminent authority on Southwestern Native American jewelry, and her scholarship, reputation, and long-term relationships with institutions and Native artists in the Southwest are of the highest regard. I am excited and pleased that Henrietta has accepted the position of Director of the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.”

Dr. Lidchi’s expertise and interests span numerous fields, with a continued dedication since the mid-1990s to the arts and material culture of Native North America. Dr. Lidchi’s book Surviving Desires: Making and Selling Native Jewelry in the American Southwest (British Museum; University of Oklahoma Press, 2015) is one of the most significant contributions on this subject, an area closely linked to the Wheelwright Museum’s preeminent leadership and collection in this field. Her other publications include the co-edited Imaging the Arctic (British Museum Press/Washington Press, 1998) and Visual Currencies (National Museums Scotland Press, 2009), and a special edition of Museum Worlds dedicated to Indigenous futurism (2020).

Holding a series of roles across national institutions in Europe, she has organized and helped fundraise for twenty permanent and temporary exhibitions, working across collections to prioritize Native perspectives. Her most recent exhibition First Americans at the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden (2020–2023) is co-curated with Joe Horse Capture (A’aninin) and combines historic and contemporary Native arts from across the USA and Canada.

Dr. Lidchi’s strong credentials in the promotion and protection of the material culture of Native Americans in the Southwest are further augmented by an international understanding of the area of repatriation. Dr. Lidchi served for many years on the board of the Native American Arts Studies Association (NAASA), serving as its Vice President from 2016–2020, among the many international organizations with which she has been involved throughout her career.

Dr. Lidchi earned a Ph.D. from the Centre for Sociology and Social Research from Open University, as well as a BA in Anthropology from the University of Durham, both institutions in the United Kingdom. Dr. Lidchi also holds an Honorary Professorship at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Tuskigi/Diné), Professor, and Director of the C.N. Gorman Museum, University of California, Davis notes, “Henrietta’s appointment not only brings her in-depth leadership experience to this museum, it also will allow her to truly bring this important institution—the oldest non-profit, independent museum in New Mexico—to new levels of national and international recognition in a way that I believe no one else could. The field of Native American art and the related museum theory and practice that supports it is a specialized one, and there must be an exceptional director at the helm to achieve success in one of the few museums in the country that feature collections of historical and contemporary Native American art.”

Joe D. Horse Capture (A’aninin), Vice President of Native Collections and the Ahmanson Curator for Native American History and Culture, The Autry Museum of the American West, states, “Henrietta has vast experience in the area of Native American art, history, and culture, and has been an important voice in the museum field, who will bring those skills to her role as director at the Wheelwright Museum. Henrietta is a rare candidate that has a background in Native American art and culture and a footprint in Europe; this perspective is very welcome in our sector.”

Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, O.B.E, Director of the V&A East, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, states, “Henrietta continues to demonstrate a great moral courage, embracing difficult areas like restitution, equity, difficult histories, and diversity, and she has continued to do so across her career, with flair and confidence.”

Since the retirement of Director Jonathan Batkin in April of 2020, Jean Higgins has served as Director of the Museum while the formal search for a new director has been conducted. The Board and staff of the museum are extremely grateful to Jean for her leadership and commitment to the mission, and since her appointment, Jean’s dedication, knowledge, and talents have made possible remarkable accomplishments at the museum during the pandemic with its constantly changing challenges. The museum looks forward to Jean’s continuing commitment and service.

“We are extremely fortunate to be able to attract someone with the breadth and depth of Dr. Lidchi’s experience and her outstanding credentials to this position. Likewise, she is thrilled by the opportunity and eager to begin work. We invite you to join us in welcoming her to Santa Fe and to the Wheelwright family this fall.”

Warmly,

William G. Howard, Jr.
President, Board of Trustees

Upcoming Events

Annual Benefit Event (Click to Learn More)
In the Mary Wheelwright Library
Wednesday, August 17 (Early Bird – $20/person); Thursday, August 18 (Free); Friday, August 19, (Free)

Native Artist’s Market (Click to Learn More)
Outside on the grounds
Friday, August 19 (Free); Saturday, August 20 (Free)