Museum Critical Review

Over spring break I visited the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. The exhibition that I visited was “Infinity of Nations” which was curated by Cécile R. Ganteaume. The collection of items displayed throughout the exhibit were from American collector George Gustav Heye who had amassed a large amount of artifacts throughout his life.

The exhibition was laid out in a long hallway within the building that began at one end and circled around. When walking through the exhibition dozens of artifacts lined each wall and all were separated by different geographical regions of the Americas in which these items were discovered. Additionally, there were glass casings in the middle of the room in some parts of the exhibit that highlighted certain items and had accompanying digital displays that would talk about the artifact itself and its cultural significance.

These screens were not the only piece of digital technology used to enhance the overall experience. There were also audio devices that allowed you to shift from one narrator to another and hear them discuss their American Indian heritage and culture. Lastly, there were interactive screens that showed motion graphics depicting legends passed down from generation to generation.

The aim of this exhibition is to educate people on the history of these indigenous cultures and to preserve their heritage for the future generation. Moreover, the showcase of artifacts from different groups of people that lived in different regions of the Americas is an example of how they were able to be independent and self-governing dispelling the idea that the culture of American Indians is a singular one. The exhibit is specifically targeted towards individuals that have limited knowledge of the history of American Indians and also youth that hold connections to these items through their heritage.

One of the challenges that the museum curators faced was coming up with the initial layout. The current layout of items grouped by geography was unusual at first since it was common to see the items in a chronological manner and some disliked the idea of grouping cultures based on regions. However, Cécile R. Ganteaume was able to overcome this obstacle by avoiding to set strict boundaries for the collections which correctly conveyed the connection between these cultures. Another challenge that I see has to do with the content that was provided along the exhibit. The curators must have been careful in making sure the cultures depicted within the exhibit were properly honored.

Overall this exhibition was fun and interesting to experience. The curators did a great job with the layout of the items and made it very aesthetically pleasing. With so many regions being represented I believe that the museum did a great job in informing visitors of the importance of American Indian cultures. One concern I have for the exhibit is that it does not dive into the lasting effects that American Indians had or how they are able to preserve their own traditions within their communities.

Images of Digital Technology:

Digital Screen showing information on American Indian Artifact
Interactive screen that depicts American Indian folklore

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