Despite the fact that today the National Museum of the American Indian is a structure with three branches, of which the central one is in Washington, its New York branch is the first museum, which became the basis of the entire National Museum. And still it is called the center of George Gustav Hay - by the name of its founder.
Hay acquired the first exhibit in 1897. It was a shirt made from a deer skin of Navajo Indians. His financial business allowed him to acquire new items already in bulk, thus creating the largest private collection of Native American artifacts in the world, which he publicly referred to as the “Hay Museum”. Officially, 1916 was the year of the founding of the Museum of the American Indian and in 1922 was opened to visitors. Until 1956, Hay remained its director.
By a decision of the US Congress in 1990, Hay's collection became a national treasure and was transferred under the control of the Smithsonian Society, and in 1994 this collection became a branch of the National Museum of the American Indian. Now it is located in the building of the former New York Customs in lower Manhattan, built in 1907 according to the design of Cass Gilbert - a famous architect. The building itself is one of the significant historical and architectural monuments of the city. It is decorated with columns, ancient sculptures, relief compositions, and white marble decoration prevails in its interior. The ceilings and part of the interior are decorated with murals.
An extensive collection of the museum, consisting of more than 800 thousand exhibits and an archive of more than 125 thousand photographs, is located here on an area of about 42,000 m2. The collection contains artifacts belonging to the Indian tribes of Latin and Central America, as well as Canada and Alaska. Of particular interest are works of art, the work of Indian artisans, paintings of Indian artists, beadwork, traditional costumes of various tribes, ritual masks, pottery, weapons. There are also collections of scalps. Among the exhibits are things that once belonged to the leaders Jeronimo and Sitting Bull, among which there are also several scalps.
It often hosts thematic ethnographic exhibitions dedicated to the peoples of both Americas, exchanges exhibitions with other branches of the museum and ethnographic museums of other countries, therefore its visit is always interesting and informative. In the museum you can also get to a concert of traditional Native American music, to cultural events dedicated to the life of the Indians, as well as visit a cozy cafe where a wide variety of traditional Indian dishes prepared according to recipes of various Indian tribes from all regions of the country are presented. And, of course, there is a souvenir shop here.