The University of Arizona

Arizona State Museum Director Hartman H. Lomawaima Passes Away

By Johnny Cruz, July 8, 2008

Lomawaima was only the sixth director, and the first American Indian, in the 115-year history of the Arizona State Museum.

Hartman H. Lomawaima (Credit: Ken Matesich)
Hartman H. Lomawaima (Credit: Ken Matesich)

Hartman H. Lomawaima, director of the Arizona State Museum, passed on Tuesday, July 8 in Tucson following an 11-month battle with colon cancer, which he fought with great determination. He was 58.

Lomawaima was only the sixth director, and the first American Indian, in the 115-year history of the museum on The University of Arizona campus, the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the southwestern U.S. He also was the first American Indian to hold a position as director of a state agency in Arizona, and was on the board of trustees for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Born Nov. 11, 1949, Lowawaima was Hongwungwa/Bear Clan, Hopi from the village of Sipaulovi, Second Mesa, Arizona. Lomawaima grew up immersed in both Hopi and Anglo cultures. He graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and during his graduate studies at Harvard familiarized himself with the vast anthropological archives and collections at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Lomawaima would later become a member of the Peabody’s board of overseers, which guides its program development and policy.

Lomawaima began his professional career as senior administrative officer of the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. He and his wife, Tsianina Lomawaima, later moved to the University of Washington. Tsianina Lomawaima is currently professor and head of the American Indian studies department at UA.

In 1994, he became the associate director at the Arizona State Museum, or ASM, and professor of American Indian studies. Lomawaima was named interim director when George Gummerman resigned as director in 2002. He became the permanent director in 2004.

At ASM, Lomawaima helped shepherd the museum’s Pottery Project, which started in 2000 with a grant from the Save America’s Treasures Initiative, to completion in May 2008. The exhibit houses 20,000 whole ceramic vessels in a climate-controlled vault, part of which is open for public viewing.

Another highlight of Lomawiama’s administration was a collaboration between ASM and UA to redesign and rebuild the front entrance to ASM’s historic building to make it universally accessible. The high point of this project was the installation of a large sculpture, "Watercarrier," by Apache artist Craig Dan Goseyun, and funded by Arnold and Doris Roland, at the entrance to the building.

Lomawaima also actively campaigned for ASM’s presence in Downtown Tucson’s Rio Nuevo project, and was a member of a committee working on The Governor's Historical Advisory Commission that is planning Arizona's Centennial activities for 2012.

ASM Associate Director Beth Grindell said it was amazing how well-known Lomawaima was, not only among museum administrators nationwide, but through his associations with American Indian artists and his home in the Hopi Nation. He was actively involved in tribal affairs and was past president of The Hopi Foundation and a trustee of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund.

His list of affiliations included posts as principal consultant to a number of museums including the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh and Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass., a member of the board of directors of the American Association of Museums and a member of the national steering committee to develop an American Indian Museums Association.

Lomawaima’s research interests included the American Indian experience; American Indian and First Nation museum/heritage center development; American Indian contributions to U.S. railroad history; and applications of early Spanish Colonial documents in developing a documentary history of Hopi-Spanish relations.

His most recent scholarly publications include contributions to the "Encyclopedia of North American Indians" and "Encyclopedia of American History"; contributions to "The State of Native America" (a working title from Harvard University Press) and "Portraits of a People," a manuscript on the photographs of Edward S. Curtis. He also served as principal consultant and humanities scholar for the documentary film, "Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian," by Anne Makepeace.

Hartman Lomawaima is survived by his wife, Tsianina Lomawaima. No services are currently planned.