FARMINGTON — Select community members on Thursday evening got a sneak peek at a new Farmington Museum exhibit that features 21 historic Navajo blankets.
The Farmington Museum at Gateway Park will open "Diyogi," a exhibit of early Navajo walking blankets, on Saturday. It will be on display in the new Energy Hall through Labor Day weekend in September.
The museum hosted a reception and tour of the exhibit on Thursday.
XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, donated all 21 of the blankets. The appraised value of the collection is estimated at about $175,000.
The Farmington-based company wanted to donate the collection to a community where the blankets would be preserved and appreciated, said XTO Energy spokeswoman Emily Snooks.
"We worked with the Farmington Museum because we wanted to find the best place to preserve the weavings and make them accessible to the public in an area where the Navajo culture is celebrated," Snooks said.
Jillian Fleming, an ExxonMobil spokeswoman, said the blankets came from the corporation's art collection. After realizing the company didn't have the capability to preserve or care for the blankets, company representatives reached out to the museum, she said.
"Diyogi," the name of the exhibit, means Navajo blanket or rug in the Navajo language.
Bart Wilsey, director of the Farmington Museum, said the museum previously only had one historic Navajo blanket in its collection. He described the recent donation as a monumental gift.
"It has basically launched us into a new prominence within museums in the Southwest," Wilsey said.
Wilsey said the oldest blanket in the collection is from 1870 and the newest one is from around 1900, when Navajo weaving techniques transitioned from blankets to rugs.
"It's in what we call the transitional period, the time after the Long Walk in 1868 to 1900, where the trend was transforming from weaving blankets to weaving rugs," Wilsey said.
According to a press release, the collection contains two third-phase Chief's blankets and a small wearing blanket.
During a tour of the exhibit on Thursday, Farmington Museum Foundation board member Karen Sarver said she enjoyed the blankets' bright colors.
"It's just beautiful, and there's motion to that," Sarver said, describing a blanket on display. "You appreciate the weaving that went into that."