National Museum of the American Indian
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cnr 4th St & Independence Ave SW · interesting places nearby
National Museum of the American Indian information
The award for most impressive external architecture of any museum on the Mall (and perhaps in the city) goes to the Museum of the American Indian. The curving exterior blobs like an art-house amoeba on the eastern edge of the Mall; fashioned from rough Kasota limestone that blushes honey in the sunset, it manages to look rustic and strong, yet liquid and organic all at once. In fact, there are no sharp edges to be found anywhere – the impression is one of nature flowing into the learning space, accentuated by an outside green area of wetlands and micro-biomes meant to simulate the ecosystem of the North American continent.
Inside, you’ll find the story of Native Americans told in a format not often employed by mainstream museums, with mixed results. The idea, to use native communities’ voices and their own interpretations, is imaginative. Unfortunately, by allowing each tribe to promote their own version of their culture, the exhibits can come off as marketing rather than learning material.
That said, the collection, which consists of nearly a million objects (sourced from Canada and Mexico as well as the United States) is impressive, and this museum is certainly worth a few hours of your time. Free tours take place at 1:30pm daily, as well as 11am on weekends. The ground-floor Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe is the best dining option on the Mall.