Skip to main content

Fourth Museum' is in the making

WASHINGTON - For those Native people not able to make the grand opening of
the National Museum of the American Indian, a 'Fourth Museum' continues in
the making.

W. Richard West Jr., NMAI director since 1990, said in a conference call
with reporters Sept. 17 that he has always known only a small fraction of
the Western hemisphere's 35 to 40 million Native individuals will ever set
foot inside the museum. This is why a "Fourth Museum" is in the works, he
added. In addition to NMAI's current three facilities - the main museum on
the National Mall in Washington, the George Gustav Heye Center in the
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York, and the Cultural
Resources Center for the storage, study and curation of museum collections
in Suitland, Md. - the "Fourth Museum" is an assemblage of portable
displays and computerized virtual information that reaches into Native

The museum's exhibits on distinct tribes will circulate back to their
communities, always subject to capacity for receiving and securing them.
Educational outreach, a museum priority, will of course encompass Native
schools. And the museum's vast store of information, including images, will
be available on the internet within five years, West said.

In a spiritual sense, he said later, in response to a different question,
Native peoples can all feel a part of the museum because it has always
aimed for breadth of representation as a way to capture the distinctiveness
of Native experience.

For that matter Elizabeth Duggal, director of external affairs and
development, noted in an interview last March that many of the museum's
contributions have come from Native individuals on a limited budget who
wanted to be involved, to do what they could for the tribute to their
collective heritage on the National Mall.


W. Richard West Jr. laid to rest any lingering doubts about the
architectural design of the National Museum of the American Indian by
attributing it to Douglas Cardinal.

This is not the first time the NMAI director has praised Cardinal in
public. Last spring, in announcing the museum's Sept. 21 grand opening,
West praised Cardinal's "design of genius." In a Sept. 17 conference call
with reporters he went further, stating that he considers the main museum
building on the National Mall a Cardinal design, and that Cardinal's name
should always be associated with it.

Cardinal, a Blackfoot and Metis architect created the building's original
architectural design but left the project in 1998, over disagreements on
the design. The Smithsonian magazine reports that Johnpaul Jones, a
Cherokee and Choctaw architect based in Seattle, completed the museum.