1 Bowling Green, New York, NY | Directions 1000440.704519 -74.014127
Neighborhoods: Downtown, Financial District (Wall Street), Financial District
Reinvent Manifest Destiny with a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Round the Rotunda and let the light in from the 140-ton glass skylight above you. After checking out the gallery space, head westward to the Resource Center and pay tribute to the traditions of the Plains Indians by creating your own Ledger Art. Ledger paper, stencils and drawing utensils are provided by the Center. After you're finished, head downstairs and see what's on display at the Diker Pavilion.
The most comprehensive collection of Native American arts and cultural artifacts in the world. – Holdings
These treasures--many acquired early in the 20th century by the renowned collector George Heye--were moved from Audubon Terrace in upper Manhattan in 1989 when the Smithsonian Institution purchased the collection of the financially troubled Museum of the American Indian. On view at this former U.S. Custom House are ceremonial and religious works, as well as everyday functional objects, including textiles, pottery, masks, carvings, garments, jewelry and mosaics. The native cultures of the entire Western hemisphere are represented in the collection, and exhibitions are created--when possible--with the input of members of these various native groups.
Despite the obvious irony of displaying Indian artifacts in a temple to Anglo commerce and capitalism, the museum takes care to consider the original cultural context of the works that are on display. The museum also hosts educational and cultural programs, film series and lectures.
Could be much better – Back in the 1970's the NMAI (in its original location on 155th Street) had abundant artifact representations from ALL nations. Now, since these artifacts have been "conveniently" shipped to Washington D.C., and the museum moved to Bowling Green, very little art and artifacts from Eastern and Southeastern nations are on display. I was disgusted but not surprised, because I am all too familiar with Native American internal politics. Until the Smithsonian comes the realization that all Native Americans do NOT reside in the West, and that the indigenous people of this country are NOT all fair skinned with long silky black hair, I will NOT patronize this museum. As an added minus--the staff is very rude and snobbish to boot.
The Wow in Pow Wow – One of the most impressive attributes of this museum is the architecture of the building in which it is housed. The grand rotunda, with its large glass ceiling high overhead, is a breathtaking sight and would be a stand-out in any institution, even the Met. Shooting off this main gallery are a handful of smaller exhibition spaces which showcase artifacts, artwork and documentation (i.e., photographs, slides and film footage). Like its name--which uses "American Indian" instead of "Native American," the museum has an old-fashioned aspect to it. Displays like "Spirit Capture" are fairly straightforward assemblages of photos and descriptive text. Too bad the museum hasn't expanded into the upper floors currently occupied by various government agencies. Since the museum's collection is world-class, it seems only right they'd have more room to show it off. (Below the main floor are some offices, educational classrooms and a kids' gift shop.)
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