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“Take the Tour, Stay for Lunch” 4 of 5 stars
Review of National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian
National Mall, 4th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington DC, DC 20013 (National Mall)
2026331000
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Ranked #90 of 485 things to do in Washington DC
Activities: Group tours/walking tour
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Attraction details
Fee: No
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: The National Museum of the American Indian houses artifacts, art, historical and cultural objects from Native Indian communities in the Hemisphere.
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
64 reviews
46 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“Take the Tour, Stay for Lunch”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 6, 2012

When on the Mall in D.C., be sure to visit the National Museum of the American Indian. Faced with honey-colored limestone, the building (opened in 2004) curves and flexes like a mesa sculpted by the wind. The guide Ramsay, an Indian from Montana, led a fascinating, hour-long tour of the galleries, exhibits and displays of native history, culture and art. He then recommended lunch at the museum’s popular Misitam cafeteria. It features native dishes from South and Meso America as well as the Northern Woodlands and Great Plains. (I had an ample, maple-basted salmon and vegetables from the Northwest Coast, pricey but delicious.)

Visited October 2012
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florida
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100 reviews
30 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 80 helpful votes
“Borning Boring Boring”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed November 5, 2012

What more can I say, I don't want to be silly but there were no Indians no teepee no igloos. I could go online and learn and see more in 5 minutes then this museum. The building its in is really cool and the cafeteria food was amazing. This museum is right next to the capital and a lot of workers and employees from the capital come over so you know the food is good. But when I go to a museum I hope to learn see something that makes me go WOW. Didn't happen here just a lot of pictures and stuff behind glass in cases that required reading. I understand that this museum was actually a culmination of all American Indians that came together and did it kind of like regional. It just doesn't work there is no flow there is nothing interesting to see. My great grandmother is Native American Indiana right her from Delaware. So I did have interest in culture, history, dress, where did they go how did they die off. Nothing we did see a lot of arrow heads and some art. Unless you just enjoy walking around a museum enjoy reading about stuff in cases and looking at pictures skip this one.

Visited October 2012
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Leesburg, Va
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5 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Unique Architecture Alone is Worth the Visit”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 5, 2012

I well remember discovering NMAI for the first time, with the surrounding landscaping still a construction site moonscape , when on a photo & video safari in Wash.D.C. with a friend looking for parking in and around the Capitol with other sites like the Botanical Gardens on our go to list.
My attention was immediately arrested by this wondrous work of very earthy 21st century architecture that was , at once , arresting expressly because it was the most unlike any of the , IMO , overdone faux Greco-Roman Euro-aping monumentalism style of architecture which radiates more a leftover creature from the Great Depression. ( I.M.Pei's design for the East Wing of the National Gallery excepted ). Thank God for the wide-wake wisdom of suffusing all of that with the copious multitudes of trees that make D.C. tolerable as a city more on a human scale contrasting the skyscraper canyons of the usual suspects of variations on Gotham City.

Thus the very structure itself already appears to represent the American Indian culture which accentuates its belief of the white men went mad because they chose to live in 4-cornered structures whereas most Indian tribes lived in more circular dwellings & curvilinear patterned villages so as to allow the free flow of Nature's energy. Thus , weather permitting , it's worth it to just allow yourself to naturally walk around this , at least 4 or 5 story , curvilinear structure , that appears to be an architectural representation of an undulating cliff face , before entering.

Once you come to the main entrance with 2 story high windows facing East to welcome the Sun you enter the main hall which harbors this gracefully spiraled 3 leveled staircase very reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in old N.Y. ( Matter of fact it shares in that larger aspect with Wright's work where the building itself is as much the appreciated work of art in its own right as the work it houses.)
You then discover the Guggenheim-esque spiral ramp is crowned by this great rotunda of concentric graduated circles with a large circular skylight at its crown to act as a great sun-disk. You will also appreciate the large slit in the southwestern slice of this dome , not unlike a telescope slot in an observatory , with 8 rather large prisms of perhaps 4 to 5 feet in length that cast splashes of spectrums throughout this great space that free-roam with the living arc of the sun.

Now all of this is just the architectural experience designed , successfully IMO , to set the tone for experiencing the mostly *contemporary* American Indian works of Art. This is to say that this is *not* just your grandfather's museum/mausoleum of stuffed manikins and unearthed artifacts cast against well-articulated artistic murals ( Flashing on the N.Y. Museum of Natural History ). This is a living museum of , in most cases , living American Indian artists of all works of art representing various tribes.
Of course there are the traditional museum historical contexts , but the concept of American Indian culture having continued into this 21st century is very much alive all contained within this exquisitely executed work of architecture designed to be apart of it all. So just visit the building itself and allow it to draw you in , if just for the sake of experiencing its very 21st century curvilinear signature on Wash.D.C. , and the rest will take care of itself.

Visited March 2012
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London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
9 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“So disappointing and partisan”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed November 4, 2012

We were looking forward to this museum but couldn't have been more disappointed with it.

The building is very impressive. But what is inside appears to be little more than an apology for the way the native Americans have been treated.

There are different sections devoted to different tribes which appear to have been written by those tribes, mostly telling how peaceful they are.

There is nothing of the history, the artefacts are mainly modern and there was not a battle covered in the entire museum. Every thing has been glossed over.

This was tacky and unprofessional. A chamber of commerce ad for the tribes. I would worry about any child learning native American history from this museum. History contains good and bad, you should not gloss over inconvenient facts.

Visited October 2012
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Sydney
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52 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“A 'hidden' gem”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 4, 2012

This is not one of the big three Smithsonian museums, but I was surprised that it is not more popular. We only had a few hours to spend here so only got see a bit of what was on offer. The exhibits are very interesting and moving. The food court offers a variety of native american and central american foods which was a big hit with our kids. Not sure how authentic my buffalo chilli was. If you are in Washington you should definitely make the time to visit this museum.

Visited October 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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