Article - Office of College Advancement

Artifact collection moving to Ohlone College

Transfer of American Indian project will allow more visibility, accessibility for community

By Linh Tat, Staff writer.

Thursday, March 1, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Nestled in the heart of Irvington High School is the old metal shop building. Gone are the sheet metals, blowtorches and large machinery. In their place is a modest collection of artifacts, maps, photos and books reflecting the history and culture of American Indians.

Native American museum at Irvington High School.DOCENT TAMIE LOPEZ talks to a class touring the Native American museum at Irvington High School on Wednesday. (Anda Chu - Staff).

For about 10 years, Irvington High has been home to the Fremont school district's Native American Studies Project. In addition to providing regular tutoring and cultural classes for American Indian students and their families, the program runs a small library and a museum that theoretically is open to the public.

But the poor visibility and the lack of staff to keep the doors open more than a few hours each week have made the museum difficult of access, a virtually unknown gem in the Fremont-area.

That may change, though, as the district prepares to move its program to Ohlone College in a few months.

Once there, most of the artifacts will be on temporary display in the library until an American Indian resource center opens, said George Rodgers, an anthropology professor and the curator of Ohlone's history museum.

The college already operates a museum—in an approximately 12-by-15-foot space—that contains at least 40 American Indian artifacts, plus fossils dating back a million years. But as with the Fremont school district's museum, its space is limited, and it suffers from low visibility.

The new American Indian resource center won't open for at least another two years, but when it does it will feature more space, including a research room, and it will be accessible seven days a week.

"It's going to be a resource for the entire community, not just the college," Rodgers said.

Parent Tamie Lopez, who gives tours of the museum at Irvington High and leads the cultural classes, is hoping the move will give the Native American Studies Project more exposure, and therefore more funding.

But she worries that the more than two decades old after-school tutoring services might not continue if the project moves to Ohlone.

After the museum moves to Ohlone, the district is hoping to hold the parent and cultural classes at the college as well, thus exposing young students to an environment of higher learning, said Teresa Bonaccorsi, manager of the department that oversees the American Indian studies program.

Rodgers, meanwhile, views the new center as an opportunity to involve more youths in American Indian studies:

"When we get this thing done, we're going to be staffing it with student docents, and not just from Ohlone College. We want to target the high school kids and other children."

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