Field Trip Friday! National Museum of the American Indian

by heatherkp

Starting today I’ll be bringing you “Field trip Friday” a couple times a month.  There are so many wonderful cultural and creative opportunities at the museums, galleries and gardens in the DC metro area. I will have no problem bringing some of that inspiration to you, I hope you like it!

Today we will visit some of my favorite pieces from the permanent exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian.  This museum has gorgeous architecture and the outside landscaping is all done using Native American plants that in most cases are not only beautiful but are functional, either as food, medicine or some other purpose (for example corn husks or other plant fibers).

The museums permanent exhibits are broken down into “Our Universe”, “Our People” and “Our Lives”.  These three spaces explore many aspects of American Indian heritage, culture, philosophy and past and current lifestyle.  This is the sort of museum that has a wide range of information and can be quite overwhelming (in my opinion) to explore and I find it easiest to take it in bits or go to explore something specific on exhibit.

Above are examples of some of the incredible bead work both traditional and contemporary and below are arrowheads and the back side of the “gold” exhibit (I love the patterns created by these groupings).


Below are some amazing examples of feathered head dresses and Day of the Dead skulls as well as the quirky contemporary mask made of utensils and of course I had to include an Ikat weaving.

On the several occasions I’ve gone, I usually spend a little time wandering through each exhibit and each time I drift over to whatever draws my attention to learn a bit more.  For example, did you know that some of the Caribbean islands have American Indian heritage?  Did  you know that Mohawk Indians were the main steel workers that built the World Trade Center and are now rebuilding the new ones?  This museum explores American Indians from all the “America’s” and the definition is broad and fascinating!  I hope you get a chance to go in person but until then maybe this virtual field trip will serve to give you a little more insight as to what this “New” Smithsonian museum has to offer.  The museum website has extensive information available such as the Online Exhibits as well as PDF catalogs you can download of the temporary exhibits, check it out.


There is also a great temporary exhibit on display through next August called “Vantage Point” which is a collection of contemporary art by Native American Indians; even more beautiful work there!  One last note, this museum has an extensive gift shop and the museum “cafeteria” has had rave reviews so I hope to have a bite to eat there on my next visit.

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