National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian (8)

You were bound to play cowboys and Indians when you were young. Ironically, the place where the island of Manhattan was purchased from the Canarsie Indian tribe for just 60 guilders in 1626 is now home to the National Museum of the American Indian.

The museum, part of the prestigious Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian with headquarters in Washington, it is located in a landmark building in the city of New York with a history of over 100 years: the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, better known as the old Customs House.

It is an imposing stone structure built between 1899 and 1907 with beautiful columns and lovely windows, designed by Cass Gilbert who was best known as the author of the Woolworth Building, one of the oldest and most famous skyscrapers in the city. If you know what its outline looks like, you can even see it from the steps of this building: it is just over 10 minutes from here, at 233 Broadway.

If you look at the façade of the present museum, you will find details that refer to trade, exploration and the maritime world; although what really stands out are the four statues that standing on large pedestals, two on both sides and another two alongside the front steps. They represent Africa, Asia, Europe and America. It is easy to know which is which, isn't it? If you like this kind of detail, look at the windows with a pediment and see the faces of eight types of human: Caucasian, Latin, Celtic, Slavic, Indian, Mongolian, African and Eskimo.

The museum is spread over several floors of the building and a visit is a must because, as you will see inside, you are given a complete picture of the culture of the real first colonisers of America and their day to day. Of course, if you like anthropology, the museum will fascinate you.

In addition to temporary exhibitions and other events, its galleries offer one of the largest collections of American Indian art and crafts in the world that consists of thousands of well-documented pieces that cover more than 12,000 years of history and over 1,200 different indigenous cultures. Although most objects belong to tribes of the current United States, there are also many others of great value from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

From their first footprints on the continent to highly-valued contemporary works of art, you will find objects of great archaeological, ethnological and artistic value, although undoubtedly those preferred by most are the ones belonging to Geronimo and Sitting Bull. Masks, sculptures, weapons, musical instruments, etc. They are true gems.

In addition to these very interesting items, the museum houses a photographic archive with more than 300,000 images dating from 1860 to the present day, as well as videos, sound recordings and documents that will provide a detailed explanation of how the Indians lived not too long ago.

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