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Throwback Thursday: Women Who Shaped the Maxwell: Marian Rodee

Maxwell History

This month we acknowledge Women’s History Month by celebrating some of the inspirational women who helped shape the Maxwell Museum.

Marian Rodee began her career at the Maxwell Museum in 1970 as the Museum’s Registrar. By 1977 she had added Curator of Collections to her duties, and in 1990 became the Curator of Southwestern Ethnology. She added to that the role of Assistant Professor in UNM’s Art Department, where she taught classes from 1994 until her retirement in 2000.

A native of Philadelphia Ms. Rodee earned her BA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania before earning an MA in Classical Archaeology at Columbia University in New York. Before joining the Maxwell she worked at the Brooklyn Museum.

While at the Maxwell Ms. Rodee became an expert in Southwestern Indigenous art. She curated more than a dozen major exhibitions, many of which travelled nationally.  A role model for building community partnerships, many of her exhibitions involved close collaborations with Indigenous artists and cultural experts. . Work with the Pueblo of A:shiwi (Zuni), and  resulted in the  exhibitions on The Fetish Carvers of Zuni; Zuni: A Village of Silvermiths; From the Center Place: Contemporary Zuni Pottery and its Makers.  All of these exhibitions resulted in definitive catalogs and reference works co-authored with James Ostler, founder of the Pueblo of Zuni Arts and Crafts enterprise.

Other of Marian Rodee’s exhibits featured the Maxwell’s large collections of Navajo weavings, including the major collections donated by Dorothy and Gilbert Maxwell.  Major shows included Sacred Symbols: Navajo Ye’i, Yei’ii Bichei, and Drypainting Rugs (1986), Two Grey Hills and Ganado Weaving, Regional Styles in Navajo Weaving (1981), Eyedazzlers: Navajo Weaving: 1880-1900, 200 Years of Navajo Textiles: Selections from the Maxwell Museum (1988), and Hot Off the Loom: Contemporary Weaving of the Alamo Navajo (1988).  A widely recognized textile expert, her book Weaving of the Southwest (1987, 2003) is both a beautifully illustrated overview of the Maxwell Museum historic textile collections, and pays tribute to the contemporary weavers that Rodee met and learned from over the course of her work.

Much of Rodee’s work with contemporary artists resulted in major donations to the Museum’s ethnology collections. Her scholarship, legacy of community collaborations, and the collections her work generated continue to enrich the ongoing scholarship, public engagement, and commitments to community partnerships at the Maxwell Museum.

Selected publications pf Marian Rodee

Old Navajo Rugs: Their Development from 1900-1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Southwestern Weaving. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1977. Second revised edition, 1981.

Weaving of the Southwest. West Chester: Schiffer Press, 1987.

Zuni: A Village of Silversmiths. With James Ostler and Milford Nahohai. Zuni and Albuquerque: Ashiwi'awan Publishing. 1996.

Zuni Pottery. With James Ostler.  Exton, PA: Schiffer Publishing.