Nancy Blomberg

Remembering a Museum Trailblazer and Thought Leader

It’s with the deepest grief that the Denver Art Museum family shares the passing of Nancy Blomberg, the museum’s Chief Curator and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts. Nancy served in her curatorial role at the museum for more than 28 years, overseeing the American Indian, African, and Oceanic art collections. She was a wonderful colleague, with her reputation for flawless research, and innovative approaches to art display reaching coast to coast.

Nancy made it a priority for the DAM to work closely with members of Native American communities, and positioned the museum as a leader in the field of American Indian art with her collaborative implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Her planning of Artist’s Eye, Artist’s Hand: American Indian Art, the 2011 reinstallation of the DAM’s American Indian art galleries resulted in a fresh, artist-centric presentation that received the Outstanding Permanent Collection New Installation Award from the American Association of Curators (AAMC). Additionally, her innovative, colorful presentation of Navajo textiles in 2013’s Red, White and Bold: Masterworks of Navajo Design, 1840-1870, was honored in 2014 with the AAMC Award of Excellence for best art exhibition. Why We Dance: American Indian Art in Motion was the last exhibition she curated, along with Native arts curator John Lukavic and guest curator Russ Tallchief, at the Denver Art Museum in 2016.

Nancy’s research specialties included North American Indian art and culture, specifically classic Navajo textiles. She lectured widely and published extensively in such publications as The Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, Kiva, and American Indian Art Magazine. Nancy also served as a past editor of Museum Anthropology, and edited and contributed to the Companion to Oceanic Art at the Denver Art Museum. Her major publication, Navajo Textiles: The William Randolph Hearst Collection, is in its second edition. Nancy’s passion for sharing the living tradition of American Indian art inspired her to build the museum’s annual Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration into a 29-year mainstay in Denver’s arts calendar.

Before coming to the DAM in 1990, Nancy served as assistant curator of anthropology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, curatorial assistant at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles and a curator at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Nancy received her bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Illinois and obtained her master’s degree in anthropology from California State University.

Nancy was a beloved colleague, a pillar of strength for the museum and a great and most loyal friend. We miss her terribly, her sharp mind and her generosity, her professional work ethic, her dry sense of humor and her kindness. In collaboration with her husband, Art Blomberg, a new fund has been created in Nancy’s honor. The Nancy Blomberg Acquisitions Fund for Native American Art will be created to ensure her legacy lives on within the collections and institution she dearly loved. Nancy will also be remembered fondly at the 2018 Denver Art Museum Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration this coming Saturday, Sept. 8.

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” -Dakota proverb

Christoph Heinrich is the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum.