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Old 01-29-2006, 05:27 PM   #1
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NMAI in Washington,DC -Love it or Hate it?

I visited the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. last summer with my family. I was, in general, disappointed in the museum and wondered how others have felt. I think the museums name could more correctly be called “ National Museum of the American Indian in the 21st Century”. I am interested in history and culture and felt the museum was light on that. There seemed to be a focus on modern Indian life more than anything else. Some sections seemed to stress the fact that Indians live just like white people. Maybe I was just hoping for more historical stuff and that is why I didn’t like it. (or maybe it was the 4 ˝ miles walk each way in 100 degree temps!)
I am not native, but am white with native heritage in my family. Just curious on the native view.
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Old 01-29-2006, 05:57 PM   #2
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well I too went this past summer and I was amazed first off on the building size, when I set my eyes on it from the outside I was thinking to myself alright they really put some work into this, well as I got closer the disappointments started setting in and not alot of disappointments but ones that might make it more appealing...the space in that museum is hugh to say the least but I personally thought to myself again where are all the number 10's of the collection??, I mean come on we all know there are warehouses full of native things waiting to be displayed, but I think its more redtape than anything just to display items. but other than that, they did a great job celebrating the life of native now days!....
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Old 01-29-2006, 06:26 PM   #3
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I thought the Smithsonian had one of the largest native collections in the world, why nothing on display? Maybe they are afraid of having to return stuff to the rightful owners.
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Old 01-29-2006, 07:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unegatowodi
I thought the Smithsonian had one of the largest native collections in the world, why nothing on display? Maybe they are afraid of having to return stuff to the rightful owners.
Have you bothered to express your concerns to the staff? I've been offered to see some of the items in the warehouse when I take some of the elders down there for a tour after talking to the staff. They are a federal museum with federal funding, they are very careful about NAGPRA and are more than willing to repatriate items to the rightful owners. I spent some time talking to them about our groups concerns and recieved a call back asking for more information. Talk to them and voice your opinion.
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Old 01-29-2006, 11:17 PM   #5
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i thought what displays they had were good, but they could have more on display. there is suppose to hae been a lot in storage, but i would like to have had seen a lot more on display.

i went with my mom in august when the pow wow was there. we went in the morning, the good thing was i was a charter member so i had passes. we got in the member's line and got in real quick. mom and i were the first ones in th members line so we were the first ones into the museum.
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Old 01-30-2006, 08:29 AM   #6
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From what I understand in talkin with folks there, theyd o have loads of things to display, and are supposed to rotating exhibits
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Old 01-30-2006, 08:52 AM   #7
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Thumbs down

I toured the museum while on a trip to DC two weeks ago. I must say I was greatly disappointed. I agree with everyone else in that there just wasn't much on display. It took us about an hour to see everything, and that was walking slow. There weren't many historical items in there at all, and what they had wasn't marked and categorized well so it was hard to tell what was what. Some of the tribes they focused on weren't even American, but South American...?? If it were called the National Museum of Indigenous Peoples I could understand that, but its not...its the National Museum of the AMERICAN Indian.

Overall, it was worth the price of admission LOL

What did you guys think of the guns exhibit? To me, it was like a history of guns used to kill Indians...?? I just didn't get it.

The food was overpriced - like everything else in DC - and the souvenir shop stunk...they didn't even have NMAI coffee mugs...

If I'm in DC again, I might go back, but its not something I would make a special trip to again.
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Old 01-30-2006, 11:43 AM   #8
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I love the museum....i thinks its amazing! I believe the director, Rick West, expressed that it wasn't only going to display historical content, but more imporantly wanted to show that Natives are not a thing of the past....that we exist, everywhere, in every aspect of society. I believe that's what the exhibit on the 3rd floor depicts, i think it's a great way to change the stereotypes. After we were put on reservations & barely given the right to vote...where else have we really gotten any recognition in history or society besides our vast statistics? (they left us at the turn of the 20th century)

Like Emmy said, i heard they will be rotating exhibits from various tribes & cultural aspects through out the museum over the years. I understand not really caring for the exhibits of the indiginous of the south AMERICAS....but as natives have always stated...we exist with out borders.

If you're interested in learning more of the historical aspect, you can visit the cultural resource center where the majority of the collections are housed...it's amazing as well!
oh the Musuem has a Resource Center that's very helpful as well.
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Old 01-30-2006, 06:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unegatowodi
I visited the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. last summer with my family. I was, in general, disappointed .... I think the museums name could more correctly be called “ National Museum of the American Indian in the 21st Century”. I am interested in history and culture and felt the museum was light on that. There seemed to be a focus on modern Indian life more than anything else. ..... Maybe I was just hoping for more historical stuff and that is why I didn’t like it.....
I am not native, but am white with native heritage in my family. Just curious on the native view.

unegato,

The funny thing about Indian Museums, most of the American public is used to seeing Indians next to the dinosaurs and viewed in historical context. It is part of the American ideology to view Indigenous people ONLY in a historical context.

This needs to change.

The NMAI has an equatable area dedicated to both historical Indians and Indians today. The NMAI does not represent theirselves as being strictly "a historical museum."

The message that Indians exist today is not known to the majority of Americans. Most Americans have never met someone who is identifiably Indian and have many antiquated and wrong, stereotypical images of American Indian people and cultures.

The best thing about the museum is that "Indian museums professionals and Indian communities had a major part in determining the content of the NMAI exhibits."

By going to tribes and communities, it was determined that the American public needs to see that Indian people are thriving, dynamic and evolving cultures.

What's wrong with that?



Is there a better American Indian museum???
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Old 01-30-2006, 06:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoMe
unegato,

The funny thing about Indian Museums, most of the American public is used to seeing Indians next to the dinosaurs and viewed in historical context. It is part of the American ideology to view Indigenous people ONLY in a historical context.

This needs to change.

The NMAI has an equatable area dedicated to both historical Indians and Indians today. The NMAI does not represent theirselves as being strictly "a historical museum."

The message that Indians exist today is not known to the majority of Americans. Most Americans have never met someone who is identifiably Indian and have many antiquated and wrong, stereotypical images of American Indian people and cultures.

The best thing about the museum is that "Indian museums professionals and Indian communities had a major part in determining the content of the NMAI exhibits."

By going to tribes and communities, it was determined that the American public needs to see that Indian people are thriving, dynamic and evolving cultures.

What's wrong with that?



Is there a better American Indian museum???
Good point, and the general public is really ignorant about indians and indian issues. From the info I had before visiting I thought it was a museum "for Indians", as much as about Indians. I think it is, and will be, a good museum to portray Indians to the general public.
I hope this thread doesn't stop anyone from visiting, it was worth the trip for sure.
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Old 01-30-2006, 07:03 PM   #11
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I admit I have not seen the museum yet, but coming intot he converstaion with some museum experiecne and courses under my belt I am still putting my $.02 in. Concerning alot in storage and not enough on display, there are two main reasons for that 1) museums do not want to overload visitors with a mish mash of artifacts and tend to have specific exhibits to focus on 2) by rotating exhibits on a regular basis everything in the collection gets exhibited AND when visitors return they see soemthing new, thus making you come back for more.

Now the critique of the museum I got from my instructor is that it's top notch. Maybe when I get out of school finally I can go see it.

As for the comment about 21st Century life, there are people out there who believe NDNs are extict. No joke about it.
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Old 01-31-2006, 09:10 AM   #12
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To be honest, we went there with the hopes of seeing old craftwork...circa 1800s beadwork and quillwork. I saw a few examples, and was highly disappointed with the rest.

Granted, its good that the general public gets to see that Indians still exist and actually go to school, have jobs, and whatnot...but to me, that's uninteresting. I already know that...I live that everyday so why would I want to see it in a museum?

I'll give the museum credit that they do a good job of educating the public on modern-day Indian life, but we left there saying, "dang, nice building...where's all the stuff?"
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Old 01-31-2006, 05:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unegatowodi
I thought the Smithsonian had one of the largest native collections in the world, why nothing on display? Maybe they are afraid of having to return stuff to the rightful owners.
une,

The Smithsonian is made up of many different separate museums (Smithsonian Arts and Industries, Smitsonian Air and Space, Smithsonian American History museum, Smithsonian Natural History museum etc, etc). There are 16 different Smithsonian museums in all. Each museum has their own separate artifact collections facility.

The Natural History Museum has almost as many Indian artifacts as the NMAI. So it also has one of the largest Native collections in the world. If you visit the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, you will only see a minute portion of their entire collection. The Indian artifacts that are on display at the Natural History Museum are located in a small gallery.

Most of the public does not know that many Indian artifacts will never appear in public. This is due to the religious content, funerary content or simply that the artifact would desintigrate if it were moved for display.

I have been very fortunate to visit the artifact collections of both the NMAI and Natural History Museum. They are located next to each other in separate facilities, in Suitland, Maryland.

If you are dissapointed with your visit to the NMAI and would like to see the artifact collections, make an appointment. It is as simple as that. Their contact information is available on their websites.

These are Indian peoples connections to the past. These institutions are paid for with your tax dollars. You have every right to visit and see these collections for yourself.


Make an appointment?
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Old 01-31-2006, 06:03 PM   #14
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dude museums are all alike man there there to show history so whether you go to a museum on a rez or off a rez they all have a same objective to show histry or what they believe is histry. i checked out the smithsonian this summer it was like any other museum what do you expect different from any other 'museum'.
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