History stays the same, but the modern-day presentation of it is ever-changing. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is a stark example of this. The Northwest Coast Hall has undergone massive renovations in order to highlight Indigenous communities and their perspectives and is now open to the public.
This was a massive $19-million project, beginning in 2017. However, the Northwest Coast Hall’s origin dates back much further. It was the museum’s first gallery, established in 1899 with the help of Franz Boas. He was a German-American anthropologist whose focus and specialization was in the Indigenous Cultures of Canada’s Northwest Coast.
The hall contains a number of displays that showcase the traditions and cultures of many Indigenous communities. The exhibits were accomplished with the help of curators from the Coast Salish, Gitxsan, Haida, Haíltzaqv, Kwakwakaw’akw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Nuxalk, Tlingit and Tsimshian communities. Here, guests can find material culture such as a 63-foot Great Canoe, monumental carvings, educational video displays, and even exhibits of Indigenous artists today.
The AMNH has made efforts towards inclusivity and involvement from Indigenous communities. However, there remains an important question about whether the museum should house these artifacts in the first place, given the histories of theft and colonization that Indigenous peoples have faced.
For more information on the American Museum of Natural History and its other exhibits, visit: https://www.amnh.org