The day before Thanksgiving I dutifully schlepped my preschooler out to the National Museum of the American Indian to teach her the real meaning of Thanksgiving or something. This museum gets a lot of hate for being a) artsy fartsy weird and b) boring. Those of you who know me are thinking, “Right up your alley!” Thanks, guys.
What’s weird about it? First of all, there are no straight walls either on the outside or the inside of the building. Why is the American Indian museum shaped like an amoeba, you ask? Because Native Americans are notoriously curvaceous, perhaps? It’s a mystery. At first it’s kind of cool, but after you curve and swerve for 40 minutes it starts to get nauseating.
This museum also seems to have the smallest number of artifacts per square foot of all the Smithsonians. Feels like it’s mostly screen after screen of mini documentaries with a couple of moccasins mixed in here and there. Ed would hate all those screens. A museum purist, he wants to see only artifacts in real life, not documentaries he could watch at home on the History Channel. You’ve driven there and parked, for goodness sake. Make with the leatherworking already! For good measure, there’s even a section with 20 itty bitty screens showing the same scrap of clouded sky. Very artistic, not very informative.
The coolest thing is the 13 minute video. It’s actually three different videos projected at once on the dome ceiling, the blanket screens in the middle of the room, and the fire pit rock under the blankets. It’s moody, reflective, and with the minimalist music, very relaxing–up until the lame-o final montage of mainstream celebrity Native Americans with the pop-y, we-are-the-world-y music.
The boys were exceedingly well behaved for such a long outing, and we actually got to watch the video and look at things somewhat closely. For all that, Fluffy was not really taken with the museum. She also had no memory of the two times we’ve been previously. I doubt she’ll remember much about this one either.
This exhibit shows what might be in the pantry of an Inuit. Don’t you feel like you really get the American Indians now?
Note menacing spear-clutching statue in the background.
Which looks more uncomfortable, Salty being attacked by Peppers or Fluffy posing grotesquely? I have hesitated to instruct her on any of her poses because I don’t want to influence the natural wonder of her mugging, but maybe it’s time to help her find some naturalism.