Monday, September 21, 2015

Museum of the American Indian

The Smithsonian Institution was established in 1846  "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Smithsonian  is  administered by the Government of the United States.  It is  the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.

17 Smithsonian  museums and galleries are in Washington, DC and only two-  American Indian Museum  and  Cooper Hewitt  Design Museum are in New York. Cooper Hewitt  Design Museum opened less than  a year ago after expensive renovation- I wrote about the museum in one of my posts.  Indian Museum has three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (opened on September 21, 2004),  Cultural Resources Center in Maryland and a the oldest one, permanent museum in New York.
Hispanic Society of America
Museum of the American Indian in New York City  was established in 1916. The founder of the Museum is  George Gustav Heye.  George had a   degree in electrical engineering from Columbia College (now Columbia University) and got his   first artifact  while superintending railroad construction in   Arizona. He accumulated the largest private collection of Native American objects in the world. The collection was initially stored in his  apartment in New York City, and later in a rented room. In 1916, with the collection totaling 58,000 objects, Heye was offered a building site at 155th and Broadway in New York in a new complex of cultural organization - Audubon Terrace. Now there is  a  museum "Hispanic Society of America"   and reference library.  I wrote about this beautiful and free museum in one of my posts.  Museum was officially opened in 1922,  delayed by WWI. 

  Starting from 1994 Museum of the American Indian  occupies two floors of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan. I wrote about the building in my previous post.  The collection in the museum was assembled by George  Heye   during a 54-year period and   includes more than 800,000 objects, as well as a photographic archive of 125,000 images.
Ranging from ancient Paleo-Indian points to contemporary fine arts, the collections include works of aesthetic, religious, and historical significance as well as articles produced for everyday use.

55 percent of the collection is archaeological, 43 percent ethnographic, and 2 percent modern and contemporary arts. The collections cover the whole American continent, not only the current U.S. geographical zone. There is a lots of information on all of the history surrounding the different Native American tribes, their ways of life, their origins, beliefs and so much more.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary,  museum  displayed 300 pieces of jewelry made by one Native American family in New Mexico.  “Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family” will run till January 10, 2016.  Various types of turquoise, coral and opal are used to create the pieces along with other materials, such as lapis lazuli   set with gold and silver.  Turquoise is an opaque, blue-to-green mineral that is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum.


Its natural color ranges from sky blue to yellow-green.  “Turquoise is a great example of a secular and sacred stone,” says Lois Sherr Dubin, the curator for the “Glittering World” exhibition. “There is no more important defining gem stone in Southwest jewelry and part of the exhibition’s purpose is to expose people to turquoise that is not dyed or stabilized, but is the authentic stone.”



The Navajo are the largest federally recognized tribe in the United States.  The Navajo language was used to create a secret code to battle the Japanese  in WWII. The Navajo Nation is the largest land area retained by a U.S. tribe and is managed via agreements with the United States Congress as a sovereign Indian nation. In the middle of the    nineteenth century, the Navajos had learned how to work with silver from the Spanish and pueblos.    Navajos started  to combine silver with the Navajo turquoise. To the Navajo tribe, the color turquoise represents happiness, luck, and health.