NMAI adds thousands of Native objects to its search center
WASHINGTON – The National Museum of the American Indian has taken a major step toward making its collections more widely available.
The museum has posted all of its ethnographic and contemporary art collections to the Smithsonian’s online collections search center. In January 2020, records for some 38,000 objects and sets of objects were available on the search site. Now, more than 122,000 records are available. Records include the known history of an object, its function, the materials used in its construction and images when appropriate. Culturally sensitive items are not included or may be presented without images or with limited information.
Part of the work behind this major undertaking has involved updating records with information found during the museum’s Retro-Accession Lot Project to reconstruct the collections’ acquisition history. This project, which began in 2010, addresses the fallacy that the museum’s collections were poorly documented.
Now in its tenth year, the project has changed significantly what is known about the museum’s collections. The work has expanded from systematically reviewing the museum’s archives and matching documentation to objects and groups of objects; the museum is also seeking out archival records at other institutions, conducting genealogical research on the individuals involved.
As a result of these efforts, there is a much clearer understanding of when and how objects entered the collections of the Museum of the American Indian through purchases, field collections, excavations, gifts or exchanges. In addition, thousands of names of individuals - Native makers or owners of objects, anthropologists, archaeologists, and dealers - who were never before associated with our collections have been added to the museum’s records.
For more information or to search for objects, visit, http://collections.si.edu/search/.