NYC revises American Museum of Natural History with Indigenous groups

New York, New York - In cooperation with representatives from various Indigenous groups from the northwest of the US and Canada, the American Museum of Natural History in New York has completely overhauled its exhibition rooms about their history.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York will open its revised Northwest Coast Hall on May 13.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York will open its revised Northwest Coast Hall on May 13.  © Wikimedia Commons/Gigi alt

"Indigenous peoples and museums have not always had the best of relationships," Morgan Guerin, co-curator and representative of the Musqueam Indigenous People, said during a preview of the revamped Northwest Coast Hall, set to open on May 13.

"But here it was a completely different story." The Northwest Coast Hall opened its doors in 1899 as the first exhibition hall of the famed museum in New York's Central Park.

Guerin said he first learned of its existence when his daughter happened to visit during a field trip and then Facetime-called him. He immediately noticed that many things were labeled incorrectly.

When curator Peter Whitely approached him later and asked for help in redesigning the exhibition, he immediately agreed – and got numerous representatives of other Indigenous groups to help him. Now the exhibition rooms are "a monument to the work of reconciliation."

On display are more than 1,000 works, including baskets, clothing, and artworks from previous centuries, as well as the iconic 63-foot-long Great Canoe.

In the past, the museum had often been accused of presenting the history of Indigenous people incorrectly, insensitively, and without their participation.

Cover photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gigi alt

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