American Indian Museum, Washington DC – 08 JAN 2011

I'm loving this is now my second favorite museum, right behind the Autry National Center which is the new name for the Autry Museum of Western Heritage which merged with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. I always felt the Southwest Museum concentrated too much on artifacts such as baskets, jugs, arrowheads and not enough about the peoples and their beliefs. But this new addition to the Smithsonian has it all.As it should, since it took three years in concept development, as a committee interviewed several indigenous peoples to find out what they wanted to represent their heritage. Hence, it has a balance of form, function, art and Spirit. "It is the first national museum dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of Native Americans." The interior spaces are based on circles, a Native symbol used in story-telling and architecture. The Oculus in the domed roof is representative of smoke holes in many Native dwellings.I was impressed with the video introduction presentation...again uniquely Native. The theatre was round with displays to view before the lights went down. The screen was a triangle shaped center piece consisting of three woven rugs which became the projection screens, along with the ceiling and a rock shaped hologram device.
During the presentation there would be different images projected on each object, such as a babbling brook on the rock, a wooded forest on the rug screen and tree tops with sky on the ceiling...what a show!

Their extenseive collection of artifacts (of which only a small percentage is on disploay at this location) is thanks to George Gustave Heye (184701957) who had the largest assemblage of Native American artifacts ever gathered by a single individual. This link has the interesting story about the man:

"The Gifts of the Seven Grandfaters were the Seven Teachings - honesty, love courage, truth, wisdom, humility, and respect."
The ongoing exhibit, Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shpaes Our World, "focuses on indigenous cosmologies--worldviews and philosophies related to the creation and order of universe--and the spiritual relationship between humankind and the natural world."

There was also modern art such as the above basket, made from 16mm film.

Glass beads were introduced by the Europeans and instantly became a valuable exchange commodity.

Their cafeteria was up-scale and had a wide variety of foods representing different cultures. There were many colorful flags from different tribes covering the walls of the eating area.

This museum is worth a trip to Washington DC.