The National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to the preservation, study and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native People of the Western Hemisphere.
The Museum is home to the collection of the former Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. The collection is one of the finest and the most comprehensive collections of Indian cultural materials in the world. The collection, which became part of the Smithsonian in June 1990, was assembled over a 54-year period, beginning in 1903 by George Gustav Heye (1874–1957), who traveled throughout North and South America accumulating the collection. Heye was the founder of New York’s Museum of the American Indian from its beginning until 1957. The Heye Foundation’s Museum of the American Indian opened to the public in New York City in 1922. The collection has more than 800,000 objects as well as a photographic archive of about 86,000 images.
Among the objects are fine wood, horn, and stone carving from the Northwest Coast of North America; Navajo weavings and blankets; archaeological objects from the Caribbean; textiles from Peru and Mexico; basketry from the southwest; gold work from Columbia, Mexico, and Peru; jade from the Olmec and Maya; Aztec mosaics and painted hides and garments from the North American Plains Indians.
Approximately 70 percent of the collection comes from North America (about 67 percent from the United States and 3 percent from Canada), and about 30 percent is from Central and South America.