About National Museum of the American Indian – Washington
The National Museum of the American Indian explores the history and culture of Native Americans.
From Paleo-Indian artefacts to more modern pieces, the National Museum of the American Indian has around a million artefacts spanning various periods of history and relating to many different tribes.
The National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Institution and has branches in both Washington DC and New York City.
History of National Museum of the American Indian
Following controversy on the discovery by Indian leaders that the Smithsonian Institution held more than 12,000-18,000 Indian remains, mainly in storage, the National Museum of the American Indian Act was passed in 1989.
The creation of the museum brought together the collections of the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, founded in 1922, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Opening in 2004, the Washington site was 15 years in the making, and is the first national museum in the country dedicated exclusively to Native Americans.
The curved five story building is clad in a golden coloured Kasota limestone which is designed to evoke natural rock formations shaped by wind and water over thousands of years.
Native Americans have been at the forefront and centre of the leadership, design, and operation elements of the museum, with the aim of creating a different atmosphere and experience from museums of European and Euro-American culture.
National Museum of the American Indian Today
The museum collection includes more than 800,000 objects, as well as a photographic collection of around 125,000 images. It is divided into a number of sections that cover different geographic areas and biomes.
Concerted efforts are made to treat the exhibits according to certain Native American customs; for example, the human remains vault is smudged once a week with tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar.
The museum also offers a range of exhibitions, video and film screenings, school group and public programs, and living culture presentations throughout the year.
The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe has five stations serving different regional foods: Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso-America, and the Great Plains.
Getting to National Museum of the American Indian
The museum is very accessible via a number of transport links. Buses depart regularly from the city centre – the G8, 30S, 32, 33, and 36 – and the Metro, stopping at Federal Centre SW, is also easy to use. From the centre of Washington, the museum is a 44 minute walk via 9th St NW, and by car, is 10 minutes via St NW and Independence Ave SW.
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