I recently saw this exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. The artist, Nora Naranjo-Morse, who is a Santa Clara Pueblo, is the first Native American woman to make an outdoor sculpture in D.C. What amazed me most about these beautiful sculptures is they will eventually be worn away by the wind and rain, thus purposefully eroding over time.
You can listen to the podcasts about this exhibit here.
Visiting the Native American Museum was an amazing experience. I had chills as I wandered in and out of the rooms. I could have spent days there. The museum was so alive, so fluid, so filled with voices. There wasn’t just one story being told, but instead a multitude of stories were being told at the same time, thus creating in the viewer the occasional feeling of sensory overload. There were videos playing; exhibits seemed to run together; objects at times felt almost crowded in their display cases. The museum exists in direct aesthetic opposition to our nation’s dominant museum norms and, because of this, tells a story that is non linear and, in my opinion, focused on human rights, human potential and resistance. At every level it is a museum about Native American life not just in the past, but Native American life today and the many dreams for tomorrow.
Some day I would like to write more about the museum experience and the different ways in which it made me really believe that museum exhibits can be places of interactivity and dialog. I have been to lots of museums, but nothing has quite ever moved me, or spawned such inner and outer dialog, as this one. If you have not been, I highly, highly recommend it. Give yourself a whole day to soak it all in. I think this kind of multi-level storytelling and viewer interaction is a perfect example of what museums have the power to do. They are not there just to show. They also have the potential to generate dialog and to remind us that stories overlap. Stories are messy. They also have the potential to transform.
I am curious. Other people that have been through the museum (folklorists or non)–can you share your thoughts?