News Release

Mesa Verde Receives Gift of the Estate of David Rockefeller from the Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller

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Date: October 18, 2018
Contact: Cristy Brown, 970-529-4608

Mesa Verde National Park has announced the Gift of the Estate of David Rockefeller from the Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller—an acquisition comprising more than 100 works of art representing Native American Culture, by Native American artists, including pieces by tribal community members traditionally associated with Mesa Verde National Park. The works of art were primarily acquired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in the 1920s and 1930s, including works purchased during two trips to Mesa Verde National Park and the western U.S. in 1924 and 1926. Later works in the collection were added by their son David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy.

In 1924 Mr. Rockefeller and his older sons John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Nelson and Laurance visited Mesa Verde National Park. The group spent more than three hours at Cliff Palace with Superintendent Jesse L. Nusbaum, inspected the artifacts on exhibit at Fewkes cabin, and observed the unfinished walls of a new museum. Mr. Rockefeller pledged $3500 toward completion of the first unit of the new museum, materials to construct exhibit cases, and funds to further scientific excavations. In 1926 he returned with his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Laurance, and their two younger sons Winthrop and David. The Rockefeller family toured the museum, examined artifacts from the funded excavations at Step House, and contributed an additional $2500 for museum cases and research.  
Some of the works of art include a Navajo (Diné) rug with the woven initials J.D.R.; early examples of San Ildefonso Black-on-black pottery purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. from Maria Montoya Martinez (Poveka) and her husband Julian Martinez; wood sculptures of wildlife by Blackfoot artist John Louis Clarke (Catapuis); and paintings by Taos School artists Eanger Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp. Of special interest is a watercolor painting by Jemez Pueblo painter José Rey Toledo purchased from the Fred Harvey Store, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, during David Rockefeller’s entomological expedition in the summer 1934.  

Mesa Verde National Park is one of two institutions to receive a gift of Native American art from the Estate of David Rockefeller, along with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This donation has helped bring to light the historical relationship between Mesa Verde National Park and the Rockefeller family. This connection, fostered during the family trips to the Park, resulted in one of the first private/public partnerships in the NPS, and a multi-generational commitment to the NPS that continues today. “We recognize the value of this collection resides not only in the objects, but in the contributions the Rockefeller family has made to the NPS over the decades,” said Cliff Spencer, Superintendent at Mesa Verde.

The family’s art collection was displayed in the “Rest House,” located on the Rockefeller family’s property on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. Since the works resided in a family residence, very few people have seen this collection. Therefore, the park is gratified to know that the objects will be viewed by future park visitors and that many of the works are coming back to the area where they originated. The park plans several exhibits to highlight the objects and the family’s connection to Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum in the hopes of reinforcing the connection of the people, the landscapes, and traditions of contemporary tribal communities with the Ancestral Pueblo people of Mesa Verde. 


Last updated: October 18, 2018

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