Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation History
The Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation was established by wealthy collector George Gustav Heye in 1908. Heye began to collect American Indian artifacts as early as 1897, and it was apparent that he would need a separate space from his apartment to contain his burgeoning collection. Based in New York, Heye bought collections and documentary photographs, sponsored expeditions, and traveled and collected items himself. In addition, he sponsored numerous expeditions across the Western Hemisphere, including North American, Canada, South America and Central America.

From 1908 to 1917 Heye housed his artifacts on temporary loan at the University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum, Pennsylvania, in lofts on East 33rd Street in New York City, and at other depositories. In 1917, the collections moved to their permanent museum location at Audubon Terrace, at 155th Street and Broadway in New York City. The museum, containing ethnographic and archaeological collections from North, Central and South America, opened to the public in 1922. Less than ten years later, Heye completed a storage facility in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx. Heye served as Chairman of the Board and Museum Director until his death in 1957. After growing concern about the financial and other management of the collections came to a head, the museum became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1989 and in 1994 opened exhibit space in the U.S. Customs House at Bowling Green near New York City’s Battery Park. The Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland later opened in 1999 and the main Washington, DC museum opened in 2004.

Please visit the following links for more information about the history of the museum; History of the Collection, Collections Overview, and Significance of the Collection. Moreover, for information about how the museum currently cares for and exhibits the collection, please see the Conservation webpage and recent entries regarding Exhibitions and Conservation on the NMAI Blog.

These images are part of the National Museum of the American Indian's (NMAI) Photo Archives and are also available online through NMAI’s Collections Search.

To view more collections from the Smithsonian, visit the Collection Search Center.
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