Our great country is never short on terrific museums that clue us in on what things were like back in the day. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that American Indian museums are among the most important ones in the country as they chronicle the distinct lifestyle of the native population before their introduction to settlers.
To learn more about your country and its indigenous folk, here are 3 incredible American Indian museums that should be on everyone’s radar.
National Museum of the American Indian: Most people who only know a single Native American museum will know this one, and for good reason – NMAI is perhaps the most expansive gallery of American Indian life on the planet. In fact, the organization is large enough to feature exhibits in three different locations: one in D.C., one in New York and one in Maryland. While you can start by going to the one that is closest to you, you won’t regret stopping by all three – each museum’s pictures, carvings, items, clothing and reconstructions seem to come alive as they tell a tale of indigenous life. As opposed to other native museums with a specific niche, NMAI does it all and does it well – every visit will immerse you into the experience and potentially make you forget what year it is as you ponder what life as part of a tribe was like. If you’re only now beginning to appreciate the complex Native American culture, you can’t go much better in terms of first stops, although seasoned connoisseurs will feel right at home as well.
The Heard Museum: Ensuring that Native American voices are ‘heard’ for close to a century, the Heard Museum is another top location for those seeking an in-depth look into the American Indian lifestyle. Unlike the NMAI, Heard focuses heavily on the abundant and colorful native artwork from many different eras and zones. As opposed to a constant exhibition, the museum features around 5 to 10 formal displays per year and you should try to make room in your schedule to visit at least one. Heard is also notable for hosting several festivals and events that celebrate American Indian culture, letting those of a native heritage and people who appreciate the American Indian way of life exchange mutual admiration in a stimulating environment.
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts: Like the Heard, MoCNA is an art-centric museum that differs from similar establishments in one important way: as opposed to centuries-old artwork, MoCNA features works of contemporary American Indian artists and gives them a great platform for expression. With all the praise that 19th and early 20th century Native American artwork gets, many can forget that modern-day American Indians paint and sculpt pieces of art that are equally as impressive – without places like MoCNA, these artists might not gain nowhere near the recognition they deserve. Since American Indian tribes are known for keeping their traditions and customs alive, much of the artwork featured in this museum is virtually indistinguishable from the art of old, making it a great place for lovers of art and history alike.