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James H. Nottage -- 2011 Outstanding Alumnus
Bachelor of Arts 1972 History
Master of Arts 1976 American Studies
A passionate student of the art and people of the American West, James H. Nottage is considered by many an expert in American Indian history and the art and material culture of Western North America. Nottage developed an interest in history and art of the west at a young age, even as early as junior high school.
“I was fascinated with real things, objects that could tell me about the past and the people who owned, used, or created them,” he explains. “The process of studying and understanding things by examining their design, fabrication, and connections with larger ideas of human creativity and culture has stayed with me ever since.”
Nottage, a Laramie native, received a bachelor’s degree in History in 1972 and a master’s degree in American Studies in 1976 both from UW. Throughout his professional career as a curator and administrator, Nottage has played an important role in helping to expand or create several distinguished cultural institutions, including the Autry National Center, an intercultural history center in Los Angeles; the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka; and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, where he currently serves as vice president, chief curatorial officer, and Gund curator of western art, history, and culture.
Nottage maintains his dedication to the liberal arts and sciences by advancing public museums so that others might learn about diversity in American life through Western history and art. “The humanities provide many opportunities for stimulating careers,” he notes. “From them have come professors, judges, curators, authors, teachers, politicians, and others who have enriched all our lives and are far more distinguished than I.”
In 1973, Nottage was a graduate research fellow at the Smithsonian Institute where he focused on Plains Indian Art and material culture. He later earned a master’s degree in history museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, the premier programs in the United States that trains museum professionals. Nottage has written, edited, or contributed to more than two dozen books and exhibition catalogs and contributes frequently to magazines and journals of Western history and art. A frequent lecturer, he also has served as an on-camera commentator in numerous documentary films about the American West.
“Western history is not just about cowboys and Indians like portrayed in popular media,” says Nottage. “There is so much more to understand; it is about diversity of people, of thought, of environment, and of expression.”
Nottage acknowledges his intellectual debts to E.B. “Pete” Long and T.A. Larson and also to Herb Dieterich and Robert Righter whose passionate teaching inspired Nottage through his UW master’s degree program.