Posted by on Thursday, September 21st, 2006

On Sunday, we went to the National Museum of the American Indian.  Bill and Shirley were so happy to see how well everything came together for the museum.  They live just outside a Ute reservation and have been active in the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition for years.  Shirley was also a Latin American Studies major in college, so she’s the right person to go to NMAI with.  She knows a thing or two about a thing or two.

I should point out that you’re allowed to take pictures inside the museum–I wasn’t being a rebel, here, or breaking any laws.  I should also point out that I’m in the midst of some image-heavy blogging, here.  Sorry if I break your computer’s brain.  If it’s all too much for you, just stop after this photo.  I went to a new museum, and I felt like this guy the whole time.

(In a “my mind open, I like spirals, I am listening to whatever you need to teach me” kind of way.  Not in a major head wound, very strange sunburn kind of way.)

I didn’t take any exterior photos–there are other people who’ve done such a good job at it out there.  Suffice it to say, it’s a breath-taking structure, and the grounds are planted entirely with native species from specific regions of North and South America.  And the front doors are made of glass and covered in images from petroglyphs.

Once inside, you find a lobby with great handmade boats.  I fell hard for the boats.  This, of course, is an Outrigger.

And this is a totora-reed boat used by the Aymara people, who live in Peru and Bolivia.

Once we stopped drooling over the boats, we went to the top floor of the museum and worked our way down.  The first exhibition is a cross-section of different tribes’ views of cosmology.  The center of the exhibit is all about stars.  It opens with a glass sculpture of Raven capturing the sun in his beak (sorry–can’t remember the artist’s name).

And closes with a cast glass sculpture called “Raven Steals the Moon” made by a Salish artist named Ed Archie Noise Cat.  If you look closely, you’ll see the phases of the moon on the outside of the piece, and the raven there on the Moon’s brow.  Gorgeous work.

The displays are relatively dark and thus difficult to photograph, but trust me when I say that this museum is a fiber-artist’s paradise.  There are amazing examples of beadwork

(This one is Cree)



And fiber-related metalwork

Sweet little llamas.  Teeny, they were.  And gold.

And that’s just in the first exhibit.  Which also had some wonderful skulls for dia de los muertos

(For a sense of scale here, think ginormous.  Bigger than the biggest skull you’ve ever seen, by far.  It had its own weather system.)

And a great calendar.  It wouldn’t have been right to leave out a calendar, after all.

The next exhibit was heartbreaking in spots.  It depicted the havoc wreaked upon North and South American peoples by the coming of Europeans, eschewing Western histories of the conquests in favor of native histories.  It was a sort of reclaiming of history.  Shirley was particularly happy with this section.  It also covered the strides some tribes are making to reclaim land, repair what’s broken, and make things right for themselves.   Not so cheery, but still full of beautiful material culture.

Spinning supplies

Yarn painting

More weaving

And just generally beautiful things.

I’ll pick this as a completely arbitrary stopping point and continue in another post.

Filed in Travel,weaving | 2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Urania”

  1. minnieon 22 Sep 2006 at 8:07 am 1

    nice. wish we had something similar here.

  2. Jeanneon 22 Sep 2006 at 9:42 am 2

    My favorite thing from that museum was something that looked at first like a ball of twine or yarn. It wasn’t until I read the details of what it was that I realized how cool it was. It explained that a woman would make a ball like this of yarn and that she would add knots and other bits to it over time to help her remember when things had happened to her – remember her loves .. and her children being born.. that sort of thing. So it was basically a sort of fiber/knot journal that only the woman who created it could understand.

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