Lecture Series Celebrates David T. Vernon Collection at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park

July 2, 2008
Grand Teton National Park will host a lecture series entitled “Celebrate the Vernon Collection” for three consecutive nights—Monday, July 7, Tuesday, July 8, and Wednesday, July 9—in the Colter Bay Visitor Center auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Three guest speakers, Dr. Douglas Evelyn, Mr. George Horse Capture, and Dr. Herman J. Viola will share their in-depth knowledge of American Indian interests and museum curation, as well as specific information about the David T. Vernon Collection on exhibit in the Indian Arts Museum at Colter Bay. Collectively, these speakers have many years of experience at the world-renowned Smithsonian and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

This lecture series is a reunion of sorts: all three men participated in a presentation 30 years ago at the Colter Bay Indian Arts Museum. The return of these museum experts to this area is a testament to the value and significance of the Vernon Collection. The collection contains an impressive variety of American Indian artifacts collected by David T. Vernon over his lifetime. The collection was purchased by the Jackson Hole Preserve, Incorporated—a Rockefeller Family foundation dedicated to conservation of cultural and natural resources. Laurance S. Rockefeller loaned the Vernon collection to the National Park Service and requested that the impressive artifacts be exhibited in Grand Teton National Park. The Indian Arts Museum was built to house the collection and it opened to the public in June 1972 with Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Vernon serving as key dignitaries at the dedication. A few years later, Mr. Rockefeller donated the entire collection to the National Park Service with the stipulation that it continue to be displayed in Grand Teton.

Dr. Douglas Evelyn will present his lecture, “National Mall and the Smithsonian,” on Monday, July 7. Dr. Evelyn, a historian of Washington, D.C. by avocation and an independent museum consultant by occupation, specializes in museum planning and management following a 36-year career at the Smithsonian Institution. He helped establish the National Museum of the American Indian, serving as its deputy director for 14 years. He also served as deputy director at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, from 1979 to 1991, and at the National Portrait Gallery, where he began his Smithsonian career in 1969. Dr. Evelyn has been active in the American museum scene for over four decades, including serving as staff, treasurer and board member for the American Association of Museums; as president and board member of the American Association of State and Local History; and on the United States board of the International Council of Museums. He is now a trustee of the New York State Historical Association and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

George Horse Capture, a Gros Ventre Indian tribal member, will present a talk entitled “In Search of the Gros Ventre Indian People” on Tuesday July 8. Mr. Horse Capture served as deputy assistant director for cultural resources of the National Museum of the American Indian from March 1994 until his retirement in 2006. He was curator at the Plains Indian Museum, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, in Cody, Wyoming for 11 years, and he has taught Native American Studies at Montana State University in Bozeman. His many awards include the Lila Wallace-Readers’ Digest Community Folklife Program Grant—a $15,000 award to conduct the “Ft. Belknap Tribes Traditional Design Recovery Project.” He has published several book reviews, as well as other publications, including the article “From Reservation to the Smithsonian via Alcatraz,” in American Culture and Research Journal. He has served as a consultant to many Indian tribes, participated in a range of community activities, appeared in several films and television programs, and even produced several films himself, including I’d Rather Be Powwowing, a 16mm film that won the Old West Trail’s William F. Cody Motion Picture Award for best film portraying the West in 1983.

Dr. Herman J. Viola’s lecture, slated for Wednesday, July 9, is called “The View from the Riverbank: American Indians and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Dr. Viola is a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. A specialist on the history of the American West, he served as director of the museum’s National Anthropological Archives in addition to organizing two major exhibitions for the Smithsonian: “Magnificent Voyagers” and “Seeds of Change.” Prior to joining the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1972, he was an archivist at the National Archives of the United States, where he launched and was the first editor of Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives. His publications include Exploring the West, After Columbus, Warrior Artists, and The North American Indians. He is also the author of the middle school social studies textbook, Why We Remember. His most recent book, Little Bighorn Remembered: the Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand, was selected by both the Book of the Month Club and the Quality Paperback Club, and was a primary selection of the History Club.