BootsnAll Travel Network

NYC: NMAI and Battery Park


Today I came good on a belated birthday gift to dad — he picked the museum, and I paid. Lucky me, he picked a free one — The National Museum of the American Indian located in the U.S. Custom House at Bowling Green. NMAI is part of The Smithsonian, and has three facilities — DC, MD and this one near Battery Park.

We got a first look at the brand new Diker Pavilion for Native Arts and Culture on the ground floor, which will be officially inaugurated tomorrow night. It’s a stunning room with a slick modern design, that somehow does not seem out of place in the old Custom House building. The exhibit Beauty Surrounds Us circles around this new performance and art space.

The historic Beaux Arts building itself is worth a visit (I really Reginald Marsh’s maritime murals on the rotunda dome), but the exhibits are great too. The clay/ceramic section was impressive, but I enjoyed the Indigenous Motivations exhibit best — it’s a collection of objects created after 1950, demonstrating how “Native artists continue to be influenced by tradition, innovation and art.” There are snow goggles made of caribou bone, elk antler spoons, amazing Peruvian gourds (mates) engraved with microscopic designs and amate bark paper paintings.

Dad and I both picked up on the many references to clothing as identifier — several pieces in the exhibit show how clothing design clearly signifies what tribe or region a Native belongs to, like Mayan huipils. We expected the exhibits to focus more on New York Indian tribes, but were pleased to see and learn things about indigenous groups from all over the Americas, from Inuit to Andean. There is one piece that stood out to me from all the rest, but I’m going to research it a bit more and share it in a future post.

After about 1 1/2 hours touring the museum, I treated Dad to lunch and we headed to Battery Park, where I have not been in years. We walked through the Castle Clinton National Monument and saw Fritz Koenig’s Sphere, which once stood between the World Trade Towers. The park was busy and the ferrys full as school groups and tourists departed for Liberty and Ellis Islands. On my next visit to this part of town I hope to do the same, I think it’s been more than 15 years.

The weather was nice, a bit humid actually, but still a great day to explore this part of Lower Manhattan. I love birthday gifts that I get to enjoy too 🙂

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