Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art Conservation

Reader 1

Michelle Berenfeld

Reader 2

Julia Lum

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Rights Information

2020 Lucy U Winokur


In 1994, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) opened the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, the first of what would be three campuses. Ten years later, in 2004, the NMAI opened its main campus in Washington, D.C., already having cemented their place as leaders in a movement to center indigenous voices within museums housing indigenous material culture. By examining the history of the NMAI from the first acquisition of George Gustav Heye to its earliest approaches to exhibition design and collections management policy in the 1990s, it is possible to track the development of the NMAI from its inception through to the opening of the D.C. NMAI. Comparing the execution and viewer response, both public and scholarly, to the 1994 inaugural shows, 1996 exhibition Woven by the Grandmothers: Nineteenth-Century Navajo Textiles from the National Museum of the American Indian, and the 2004 inaugural D.C. shows, invites a critical examination of the challenges and successes the NMAI encountered throughout its developmental journey. In addition, examining Woven by the Grandmothers as a case study allows a closer look at the specific processes of community collaboration, inclusion of Navajo historical narratives, and the development of an NMAI show, looking at the ability of the NMAI to authentically center indigenous voices while implementing progressive policies of conservation and collections management.