The museum itself has a large open ceremonial space on the main floor, with three lovely boats. The galleries themselves on the upper floors.
And what galleries they are! There is an almost overwhelming exhibit tracing the impact of colonialism on native peoples and then individual exhibits on various tribes (from both North and South America). I like the fact that each tribal exhibit includes a poster with information on the tribal members who put together the exhibit. It seems to reinforce the exhibit’s theme that American natives are real people and that they are still here.
The exhibit I most want to see, called Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women’s Dresses, was turns out to be simply amazing. There is a whole room filled with gorgeously designed and decorated dresses, most old and made of carefully worked deer hide.
Like UBC’s Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, some of the exhibition space includes pull-out drawers filled with additional items. Unlike UBC’s museum, the Smithsonian has ensured that the drawers are well-lit and that documentation can be easily accessed. It is all neatly organized and very user-friendly.
Actually, the whole museum is pretty user-friendly, with wonderful videos that provide additional information. I could spend days here just watching the videos.
It is a fabulous museum.
I’m adding it to my must-do-whenever-I-am-in-DC list!