National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center
Hours and Admission
The museum is open 10 AM–5 PM daily, Thursdays to 8 PM; closed December 25.
Admission is free.
The National Museum of the American Indian–New York, is located on the south side of Bowling Green, in lower Manhattan, adjacent to the northeast corner of Battery Park.
4 & 5 trains to Bowling Green
1 train to Rector Street or South Ferry
R train to Whitehall Street
J & Z trains to Broad Street
2 & 3 trains to Wall Street
M5, M15, and M20.
See the NY MTA for maps and service updates for subways and buses.
Drop-off & Parking
Buses may drop off groups at State Street or Whitehall Street. There is no parking at the museum. There are several parking garages located nearby.
Visitor Services desks on the Second Floor in the Great Hall provide information on daily tours, programs, and screenings.
The National Museum of the American Indian–New York is accessible to people with disabilities. Groups and those with special needs are asked to use the ground floor entrance to the museum. All exhibitions are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available free of charge on the ground floor of the museum, and may be obtained on request from the security staff. Additional accessibility services can be provided at no cost, with 2 weeks advance notice. To request accessibility services or for specific accessibility questions, call 212-514-3758 or email NMAI-NY@si.edu
COAT ROOM & LOCKERS
The Second Floor Coat Room has small lockers for public use. Private coat storage is provided for school groups visiting the museum.
Group Visits & Tours
The museum offers daily public tours and gallery programs by Cultural Interpreters and Museum Ambassadors, along with daily film screenings. For information about daily tours, gallery programs, and screenings scheduled during your visit, consult the online calendar at NMAI.SI.EDU under the "Gallery Talk and Tours" category or visit the Visitor Services desks in the Great Hall on the Second Floor.
For group tours, call 212-514-3705. For adult group tours only, email NMAI-NY@si.edu.
DAILY PUBLIC TOURS
Building Tours (45 min.–1 hr.)
Join a Museum Ambassador for an in-depth look at the unique architecture and exquisite beauty of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, home of the National Museum of the American Indian–New York. Designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert and completed in 1907, the Custom House is a National Historic Landmark. The building's interior splendor includes an elliptical rotunda with a 140-ton dome skylight designed by Valencia-born engineer Raphael Gustavino and murals by New York painter Reginald Marsh, as well as monumental marble arches and columns. Tours include a visit to the Collectors Office, not normally accessible to the public. The Collectors Office features woodwork by Tiffany Studios and can be seen on Boardwalk Empire and in films like Spike Lee's Inside Man.
Exhibition Tours (45 min.-1 hr.)
Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family
Join a Museum Ambassador for an introduction to the story of Navajo jewelry through the lens of the gifted Yazzie family of Gallup, New Mexico. Featuring more than 300 contemporary jewelry examples, Glittering World encourages visitors to push their understanding beyond silver, turquoise, and squash blossom necklaces. The exhibition places Navajo jewelry making within its historical context of art and commerce, illustrates its development as a form of cultural expression, and explores the meanings behind its symbolism.
Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian
Join a Museum Ambassador for a guided tour through the permanent exhibition Infinity of Nations. This exhibition presents works of art from throughout Native North, Central, and South America, with more than 700 works on display. The rich exposition of focal objects, including a magnificent Apsáalooke (Crow) warrior's exploit robe, demonstrates the degree to which Native America was interconnected before European peoples arrived and how cultural exchange has profoundly shaped our shared histories.
Enhance your visit with a discussion with a Cultural Interpreter. Topics of discussion include beading, music makers, textiles, and Native games. Daily schedules are available at the Visitor Services desk, Second Floor.
SCHOOL GROUP TOUR POLICIES & GUIDELINES
School groups are required to have one adult chaperon for every ten students. Chaperons must supervise and remain with their groups at all times and in all areas, including the museum store. If a class is divided because of limited gallery space, a chaperon must accompany each group. Only ten students are allowed in the museum store at one time. The NMAI reserves the right to refuse or terminate a program that is inadequately supervised or that fails to conform to standards of good behavior.
The museum's Gallery Store (Second Level) features handcrafted jewelry, pottery, textiles, and more by skilled Native artisans, as well as a large selection of toys, Native foods, books and media, and souvenirs and crafts for the novice collector.
Additionally, the Glittering World Gallery Store (East Gallery, Second Level) features jewelry from Native American artists in conjunction with the exhibition, "Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family."
Architecture & History
"Indians migrate to New York, now as in the past, for the same reason others do: to seek their fortunes. But beyond that, New York, an ancient place of exchange among Indians, has become a center of new thinking about Native cultures. The Hopi of Arizona have a prophecy of a time when they would travel to the east to meet with the nations of the world in a 'house of mica.' Through the exhibitions and programs of the National Museum of the American Indian's Heye Center, the custom house, too, is becoming a place for the exchange of ideas among peoples."
—W. Richard West (Southern Cheyenne and member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma), Founding Director, National Museum of the American Indian
THE ALEXANDER HAMILTON U.S. CUSTOM HOUSE
Home of the NMAI's George Gustav Heye Center, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House is one of the most splendid Beaux Arts buildings in New York. Rich in architectural and historic significance, the custom house is a National Historic Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Before the imposition of the income tax in 1916, customs duties were the greatest single source of revenue for the U.S. government, and the Port of New York was the country's most prosperous trade center. In 1899, the government invited twenty architects to submit designs for a new custom house. The design chosen was by Cass Gilbert (1859–1934), a well-known young architect from St. Paul, Minnesota. Gilbert, who had once worked in the offices of McKim, Mead & White, felt that a public building should reveal the "imponderable elements of life and character."
A MONUMENT TO COMMERCE
The custom house Gilbert built, in collaboration with other renowned artists and craftsmen, was begun in 1900 and completed in 1907. The vast seven-story structure, with its 450,000 square feet, covers three blocks in lower Manhattan, immediately south of Bowling Green at the foot of Broadway. The exterior features forty-four columns, each decorated with a head of Mercury, the Roman god of commerce. On the building's huge entrance pedestals are four large sculptures—seated female figures representing America, Asia, Europe, and Africa—by Daniel Chester French (1850–1931), who also created the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Above the columns of the main facade are twelve heroic statues representing the sea powers of Europe and the Mediterranean, while above the main-floor windows are sculpted heads symbolizing the races of humanity. The exterior also features a giant cartouche depicting the shield of the United States, with a serene head of Columbia, sculpted by Vincenzo Alfano (1854–1918) in 1903, presiding over the building's main entrance.
Shells, marine creatures, and sea signs abound throughout the interior, as befits a tribute to New York's preeminence as a seaport. Monumental arches and columns highlight the symmetry of the great hall. Off this spectacular lobby is the ornate Collectors Reception Room, its walls oak-paneled by the Tiffany Studios. The immense arch of the custom house's magnificent elliptical rotunda was built according to the principles of Spanish-immigrant engineer Rafael Guastavino (1842–1908). The ingenious design allowed the rotunda's 140-ton skylight to be constructed without visible signs of support.
In 1937, celebrated New York painter Reginald Marsh (1898–1954) accepted a low-paying position with the Treasury Department to produce murals for the rotunda dome. Working with astonishing speed, Marsh and eight young assistants depicted early explorers of the Americas in one series of paintings and traced the course of a ship entering New York's harbor in the other.
A Walk-In Learning Center for Museum Visitors
The mission of the Resource Center at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York is to provide information pertaining to all aspects of the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere. Knowledgeable museum staff are available to help with general requests about the museum and its exhibitions, as well as with research using the center's outstanding collection of books, periodicals, CDs, DVDs, and videos.
Visitors may conduct research ranging from school assignments to in-depth scholarship in the center's work/study area, which is equipped with library collections suitable for all ages and contains information on many subjects, including history, culture, art, genealogy, current issues, and much more. For group appointments, call 212-514-3799, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experience a diverse handling collection and hands-on activities.
The Storybook Reading and Hands-on Activity program invites families to listen to storybook readings selected from the center's collection and participate in a related hands-on activity. All are welcome to join the program on the second Saturday of each month at 1 PM. No appointment is needed. First come, first served.