National Museum of the American Indian
George Gustav Heye Center
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House
1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
(212) 514-3700 • 514-3705 Groups

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Established by an Act of Congress in 1989, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian is "dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of Native Americans. Its collections span more than 10,000 years of native heritage, primarily representing cultures in the United States and Canada.

The newly opened George Gustav Heye Center is the first of three facilities comprising the Museum, with others to be opened in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. The Heye Center is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, a monumental structure in the Beaux-Arts style of architecture. Featuring 44 columns, each decorated with the head of Mercury, the building's exterior is at once imposing and beautiful. Sculptural groups at the building's entrance represent the four continents, depicted as seated female figures. They were designed by Daniel Chester French, creator of the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial.

The interior is no less spectacular, featuring an enormous lobby panelled with rich marbles of various types and colors and highlighted by arches and columns. Nautical motifs -- shells, marine creatures, sea signs -- abound throughout the interior, reflecting New York's preeminence as a seaport.

The Collections found at the Heye Center include, among other objects:

  • Intricate wood, horn, and stone carvings from the Northwest Coast of North America
  • Elegantly painted hides and garments from the North American Plains
  • Pottery and basketry from the southwestern United States
  • Archaeological objects from the Caribbean
  • Beautifully carved jade of the Olmec and Maya peoples
  • Textiles and gold from the Andean cultures
  • Elaborate featherwork by the peoples of Amazonia
  • Paintings by contemporary Native American artists.

The Museum collaborates with the Native peoples of the western hemisphere to ensure representations are accurate. In fact, funerary, religious, and ceremonial objects associated with living cultures are displayed only with the permission of the appropriate tribe. In this way the integrity of the exhibitions is always beyond question, and visitors can truly become familiar with these proud cultures.Visitors will find many interesting programs available throughout the year, including American Indian Dance and Music, Storytelling, Poetry Readings, Guided Tours, Films, Lectures and other activities. A calendar is available upon request. A long running exhibit, All Roads Are Good: Native Voices on Life and Culture, features objects selected by twenty-three Native Americans from throughout the Western Hemisphere. These singers, storytellers, artists, elders and scholars interpret the objects, giving rare insight into the culture and the hopes for the future of Native Americans. Other special exhibits run concurrently.While there are no formal programs for School Groups, Group Tours are appropriate for all ages and would enhance anyone's education.

Hours: Open 10am - 5pm every day (until 8pm Thursdays) except December 25.
Admission: FREE, including groups.
Groups: FREE
Group Reservations: At least 4 weeks in advance.
Lunch: Nearby restaurants, fast food.
Handicapped Access:

Copyright © 1996-2014 by Patrick Tadeushuk. All Rights Reserved.