After centuries of suffering and extermination, the native people have been finally recognized as a valuable part of American heritage and history. In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the 'National Museum of the American Indian Act', establishing a plan for the transfer of the Heye Foundation collection to the Smithsonian Institution. The law provided for the set up of three sites as part of the new museum: The George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland, and a new museum on the prestigious National Mall in Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony of the Washington museum was held on September 21st, 2004, with more than twenty thousand Indians from over five hundred tribes gathering to celebrate in the largest assembly of native people in modern history. Native people were extensively involved in all phases of the creation of the new museum. Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal took credit for the conceptual design, which filled the new building with rich imagery, native symbolism and connections to the earth. The grounds surrounding the museum feature forest, meadow, wetland, and traditional cropland areas, as well as indigenous plants, recall the natural environment of the Chesapeake Bay region. The four-story curvilinear building evokes ideas of natural rock formations carved by wind and water over times. The central part of the building is the Potomac, a great atrium, reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York. As a whole, the National Museum of the American Indian is home to the Heye Foundation collection, one of the largest and most diverse collections of American Indian art and cultural objects. However, a few percent of Heye's collection is on display in New York, and even less is on display in Washington, with the rest being stored in Suitland. The Washington museum houses three permanent exhibitions: 'Our Universes', 'Our Peoples', and 'Our Lives'. Each exhibition shows eight different native tribes from the Western Hemisphere, designed with consultation between museum stage and Natives. In all of its activities, the National Museum of the American Indian recognizes the diversity of cultures and strives to find new approaches to study and represent the history, materials and cultures of the Native peoples.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.