The University of New Mexico's Arts of the Americas Institute will work with a consortium of Native American communities to provide broadband Internet connectivity to five tribal museums and culture centers. The Access Grid connecting the sites will allow the museums to develop web-based exhibitions and databases; cultural and arts education programs in traditional languages for the tribal members; and cultural education programs for the public. The Access Grid will also allow the museums and cultural centers to access distance education courses provided for museum management and professional artist development. Museum officials will be able to develop their own distance education courses over the Access Grid and develop e-commerce capabilities for artists in their communities. The Access Grid will provide the technological means to conduct remote meetings, site visits, training sessions, and educational events, and will also allow for the development of Virtual tours of areas `off limits' to visitors due to cultural or religious concerns. These tours, coupled with traditional museum activities, will help non-Native people gain a better understanding and appreciation for tribal customs and traditions.
Today, most tribes find themselves grappling with a variety of issues having to do with maintenance of their cultural heritage; preserving indigenous languages; and educating tribal and non-tribal members about the cultural riches of the tribes. Tribal museums have become an important means for tribes to control the depiction of their cultures, depictions that have taken on greater importance with the realization that the art, language, and culture is central to a tribe's identity. The Access Grid will provide the bandwidth and technology necessary to develop modern, technologically enriched museums, and will enable museum officials to access professional training online. Local artisans will be able to use the Access Grid to cultivate larger, more lucrative markets for their products. The Access Grid model is a highly replicable solution for other tribes facing similar issues and opportunities.
The tribal consortium involved in this project includes the Pueblos of Zuni, Jemez, and Pojoaque, the Indian Pueblo Culture Center of Albuquerque, and the Jicarilla Apache Nation.