The overall mission of the Heard Museum is to educate the public about the heritage and the living cultures and arts of Native peoples, with emphasis on the peoples of the Southwest. The Heard Museum is not a history museum. It is a living museum featuring both artifacts and contemporary art of Native cultures. The main Phoenix location of the Heard Museum has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride.
The Heard Museum was founded in 1929 by Dwight B. and Maie Bartlett Heard to house their personal collection of art. Much of the archaeological material in the Heard's collection came from La Ciudad Indian ruin, which the Heards purchased in 1926 at 19th and Polk streets in Phoenix.
From its start as a small museum in a small southwestern town, the Heard has grown in size and stature to where now it is recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, its educational programming and its festivals. The current collection of the Heard Museum consists of over 40,000 items including a library and archives with over 34,000 volumes. The museum has over 130,000 square feet (12,000 m²) of gallery, classroom, and performance space. Some exhibits include:
The Heard Museum now attracts about 250,000 visitors a year.
The Heard hosts the annual Spanish Market, usually in November, with strolling mariachis and artwork by Hispanic artists from Arizona and New Mexico including santos, pottery, colcha embroidery, furniture making, painting, printmaking and silver and tinwork. The Heard also hosts the annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest, typically held in early February. The most famous festival at the Heard Museum, the Indian Fair and Market, is now in its 50th year.