Huhugam Heritage Center Completes Expansion of Cultural Exhibits

Emma Hughes

Gila River Indian News


While the official reopening date has not yet been set, the substantially renovated Huhugam Heritage Center (HHC) is hoping to safely reopen to the public later this fall 2021.


HHC along with Tribal Projects Department, DWL Architects + Planners, Ganymede Design Group, Digiscura and Pimmex Contracting completed renovations to its museum building in January of 2020, a project that took nearly five years. HHC held an open house for the Community in January and had plans to showcase the new building to the public – including hosting an Elder’s Day event – but all that was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


“It’s given us time to prepare and get ready,” said Shirley Jackson, Director of the HHC. “We are planning on coming back, it’s going to be slow, it may not be what everyone expects, but of course we want to be safe when doing so.” 


Jackson has worked at HHC from its early days, serving over the years as the museum’s historian, curator and archivist. When the pandemic hit, said Jackson, HHC had to research to find guidance for appropriate health and safety procedures specific to museums. HHC staff worked together with the four sister tribes, meeting to share events and ideas. 


Jackson said the museum has put in place physical distance markers, plexiglass between staff and visitors, hand sanitizing stations. Disposable masks are also likely to be used.


When HHC does re-open and continues its programs, said Jackson, the museum hopes to do so in a significant way, including plans to resume the “First Friday” event that was popular in bringing together artists, food vendors, music and more. 


During the pandemic, HHC has been utilizing social media extensively. The museum has been using its Instagram account to release the “O’otham word of the day.” HHC recently began sharing a series of videos on their Facebook page. The videos provide a virtual tour of the museum’s exhibits, sharing the rich history and culture of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh. The exhibits include jewelry, pottery, baskets, carved stones and tools, and more.