The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The Museum is the first national museum in the country dedicated exclusively to Native Americans and the first to present all exhibitions from a Native viewpoint.
Unique in form as well as function, the building assumes an unusual shape, curving into itself. The consistent allusion to nature was vital, as Native American cultures strongly value the relationship between humans and the environment. To communicate this connection, buff colored limestone was chosen as the primary material, meant to appear like natural rock. Throughout the exterior and interior Native American symbolism abounds.
While the numerous artifacts and illustrations are provided throughout the facility, none come from the Sowams Heritage Area nor is the important history of that area described. However, an on-line search of the Museum’s collection database reveals hundreds of items from Sowams, including glass beads, ornament fragments, brass spoons, pestles, cooking pots, pipe fragments, pipe bowels, ax heads, hammerstones, hammer heads, pendants, stones, picks, chisels, grinding abraders, sinew abraders, hoe blades, projectile points, steatite/soapstone fragments, and soapstone vessels, all now in storage.
Pictured above is one of the many exhibition halls and the entrance atrium, all designed with natural, curving forms.