The Museum of Northern Arizona has made it all the way to top -- or at least to the White House.
First Lady Michelle Obama presented the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Museum of Northern Arizona this morning.
Museum of Northern Arizona president Robert Breunig, and community member Jeneda Benally accepted the award.
The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community.
Mrs. Obama said America's libraries and museums aren't luxuries or "extras" that can be passed over while money goes toward other goals like creating jobs or teaching children.
"So often our libraries and museums are doing the critical work to help us achieve those goals in the first place," Mrs. Obama said Monday at an East Room ceremony honoring 10 institutions from across the country for service to their communities.
She said the recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service were preparing young people for college, helping entrepreneurs build their businesses and aiding veterans as they look for civilian work.
"Whether you're bringing virtual classes in STEM education to remote areas and inner-city communities, or teaching our children about their Native American and African-American heritage, so many of you are working to close the heartbreaking opportunity gaps that limit the horizons of too many people in this country," Mrs. Obama said.
The Museum of Northern Arizona offers enriching programs for all children through its Discovery Program, launching a Navajo language summer camp for Diné youth, providing forums that foster dialogue about critical community issues and the future of the region, celebrating the diversity of regional cultures through Heritage Festivals, and by offering a rich variety of exhibitions and public programs.
Jeneda Benally is a Navajo educator, and a bassist and co-vocalist alongside her brothers in a Navajo rock band. She and her family have performed traditional Diné dances at the Museum of Northern Arizona’s annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture since she was a teenager.
As a young person, Benally felt empowered by the dialogue, education, and celebration of both traditional and contemporary Navajo culture fostered by the museum. She now mentors Navajo youth and credits the museum with directly contributing to her music and dance success, as well as her love of being an advocate for her culture.
“Our nation’s museums and libraries provide robust programs, services, and resources that fuel innovation, economic activity, and cultural and civic engagement,” said Maura Marx, acting director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, in a prepared statement. “The 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Service recipients have demonstrated great determination and dexterity in addressing critical needs of their communities. Their successes are exemplified in the stories of community members whose lives were profoundly changed for the better, thanks to the support of these institutions.”
StoryCorps — a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans — will visit the recipient institutions to document stories from the community.
The 2015 awards went to:
— Amazement Square, Lynchburg, Virginia
—Cecil County Public Library, Cecil County, Maryland
—Craig Public Library, Craig, Alaska
—Embudo Valley Library and Community Center, Dixon, New Mexico
—Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles
—Louisiana Children's Museum, New Orleans
—Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, Arizona
—New York Hall of Science, New York City
—The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York City
— The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose, California
The awards are given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums.