May 18, 2012

The National Museum of the American Indian was gearing up for their Children's Celebration, ensuing the following weekend, with a performance for school groups on Friday morning. The King's Island Dancers and Singers shared a traditional Alaskan experience, including the use of masks and gloves. Everyone who performed was related: cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings.

  • King's Island Dancers & Singers (Rotunda)
  • King's Island Dancer with mask (Rotunda)
  • Museum floorplan at information kiosk
  • Infinity of Nations permanent collection
  • Display case in Infinity of Nations
  • Information kiosk in Infinity of Nations
  • Touchscreen in Infinity of Nations
  • Deerhide textile, Infinity of Nations
  • IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas (Photography Gallery)
  • Audio interactive in Time Exposures: Picturing a History of Isleta Pueblo in the 19th Century (Special Exhibit Gallery)
  • Tipi in Education Center
  • Buffalo hide display in Education Center
  • Video loop about tanning in Education Center
  • Diker Pavilion for Native Arts and Culture
  • Display cases in Diker Pavilion
  • Small Spirits: Dolls from the National Museum of the American Indian (Diker Pavilion)
  • Language film in Screening Room
I brought a 4th grader along with me; that is the grade in NYS where standards require learning about New York's original inhabitants. We did arts & crafts in the Resource Center first and watched a language film in the Screening Room. Then we visited the permanent collection (Infinity of Nations), the Photography Gallery and the Special Exhibit Galleries, all on level 2 where we entered. Finally, went downstairs to level one and visited the Education Center and Diker Pavilion, where we discovered our favorite exhibit, Small Spirits, dedicated to dolls!

May 31, 2012

When I arrived I went to the Resource Center Reference Library and signed in, requesting some of the museum texts that I found online in the eCommerce store and needed as references for both my final paper and Wikipedia page edits. I read two of them and took notes.

  • Resource Center Reference Library
  • Children's materials and object handling area (Resource Center and Reference Library)
  • Closed stacks in Resource Center and Reference Library
  • Artist's panel for We Are Here! (Diker Pavilion)
  • Reception for We Are Here! (Rotunda)
  • We Are Here! (Contemporary Galleries)
  • American Indian depicted leaning over America's shoulder (building exterior)
  • Cornerstone (building exterior)
The museum was holding an opening reception for the We Are Here! Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, which is the featured exhibit in the Contemporary Galleries for the summer. Alan Michelson, Bonnie Devine, Skawennati, Duane Slick, and Anna Tsouhlarakis participated in an artist's panel, followed by a reception and exhibit preview . In the panel the curator highlighted the shift towards using new media, particularly in the work of Skawennati and Anna Tsouhlarakis. Skawennati feels that the Indigenous need to be present in cyberspace, and Tsouhlarakis is attracted to the medium because of its lack of definition and ephemeral nature.

June 5, 2012

The first thing I did on this trip was attempt to use the Infinity of Nations app. I turned in my license in exchange for an iPod and headphones, and returned to the main gallery. This is probably the 5th or 6th time that I have been in this exhibit, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the app was so engaging. If anything, I was dissappointed that it only highlighted some of the items in the displays. I am always interested in textiles, being a quilter, so I would like to see an app where every item is clickable for more information.

  • Using the Infinity of Nations app
  • Using the app, I learned how to make this.
  • Haudenosaunee Discovery Room
  • Mohawk Ironworkers display in Haudenosaunee Discovery Room
  • Mural explaining Haudenosaunee root of American democratic system
  • 2nd Life virtual reality art in Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Beadwork demonstration in Education Center
After using the app, I returned to the We Are Here! exhibit, and I walked all the way through to the back to visit Skawennati's contribution which used Second Life. I am particularly interested because I am proposing a virtual reality exhibit for the expanded Haudenosaunee exhibit/education center. The difference is that I would like to suggest something interactive, where students (who visit in classes on a daily basis) can put on a headset, use a controller, or interact with a Kinect-like device. This artistic expression of virtual reality, where there is a video running she recorded in a virtual world with Native avatars and still images are framed on the walls, is a step in that direction.

Then I attended the beading "demonstration" in the Education Center, where my friend from college - who is a NMAI museum educator and facilitates the school trips - had agreed to an interview. This is the information I gleaned:

  • 4th grade is the main age group that visits
  • the educators do not currently engage school groups with IT during trips
  • they consult with teachers before the visit, and most are interested in the students engaging with items re: the Woodlands NYS/NYC geographic region
  • few teachers visit the site before visiting
  • the educators would love to have iPads (with crossbody straps) and smartboards, and be able to teach from the iPad during interactions
  • there is an in-house IT department
  • the museum holds "all-hands" staff meetings with everyone from DC and NY via webcast once a month (forgot to ask if Maryland facility is online for this too!)
  • most visitors have little prior knowledge of Native history/culture, educators then stress the diversity within Indian country
  • some visitors have a negative stereotype, the educators then stress that Native Americans are not extinct or counter negative portrayals with positive ones
  • many visitor questions are general, educators then ask theme to frame their query in terms of time period, geographic location, or tribal group; conversations with visitors can lead to educators referring them to the librarian upstairs
  • sometimes there are VIP tours (a student group from a tribal school would be considered VIP), and educators then stress diversity (such as South American and Canadian tribes), discuss urban Indian culture, and answer questions about NYC
  • the NMAI's exhibits travel to tribal museums

Finally, I visited the Haudenosaunee Discovery Room. This is a 10'x10' room with displays about Lacrosse, Mohawk Ironworkers, Cornhusk dolls, wampum, and the Great Peace (basis for American democracy), among other things. I was particularly taken by the Lacrosse jersey hanging from the ceiling and immediately realized Lacrosse, or Woodland Native sports, would be the perfect theme for a virtual/augmented reality exhibit in the future, expanded Haudenosaunee exhibit (planned for the area currently occupied by the Contemporary Art Gallery). I know what IT idea I will propose for my final paper - virtual Lacrosse! There is a small 12'x8' sspace in the gallery they are using that will be perfect to contain it.