For the first time in its 150-year history, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has hired a full-time Native American curator: Patricia Marroquin Norby.
Dr. Norby — who is of Purépecha heritage, an Indigenous population that primarily lives in Michoacán, Mexico — will assume the role of associate curator of Native American art on Monday. She most recently served as senior executive and assistant director of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.
In a statement, Max Hollein, the Met’s director, said of Dr. Norby: “We look forward to supporting her scholarship and programmatic collaborations with colleagues across the Met as well as with Indigenous communities throughout the region and continent.”
Before coming to the National Museum of the American Indian, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Norby was the director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry, a research library in Chicago. She also worked as an assistant professor of American Indian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in American studies, with a specialization in Native American art history and visual culture.
“This is a time of significant evolution for the museum,” Dr. Norby said in a statement. “I look forward to being part of this critical shift in the presentation of Native American art.”
The Met had been seeking to fill the position since last September.
For most of the museum’s history, work by Native American artists has been displayed in the galleries of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The museum staged a Native American art exhibition in its American Wing in 2018, but the show faced pushback from the Association on American Indian Affairs, an advocacy group that claimed the museum had not satisfactorily consulted with tribal representatives before the show opened.
In a statement, the group said that a majority of the items in the show were not art, but “sacred ceremonial objects, cultural patrimony and burial objects,” though it did not point to any specific item. A spokeswoman for the Met told The Art Newspaper at the time that the allegations were without merit and that it had “engaged regularly and repeatedly with tribal leaders in many Native communities throughout the country.”