Native Americans celebrate 'iconographic' museum

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The Independent US

Of all the buildings that line Washington's National Mall, none is more striking than its latest museum - due to open later this month with a six-day festival to celebrate native American culture.

Of all the buildings that line Washington's National Mall, none is more striking than its latest museum - due to open later this month with a six-day festival to celebrate native American culture.

The five-storey building that resembles a rock formation from the deserts of southern Utah or Arizona, carved and blown by the elements, will house the National Museum of the American Indian. The designers intended that visitors should immediately feel they were entering a Native American place.

"It is a vital new museum, created by native peoples from this hemisphere," said Smithsonian Institution Secretary, Lawrence Small. "Its importance can't be over-estimated." The $200m (£111m) museum, opening on September 21, was set up by an act of Congress passed as far back as 1989. Work on the building began in 2000.

Extensive consultations were held between architects and native Americans, and the museum is governed by a 23-member board of trustees, 14 of whom are American Indians. Richard West, a Southern Cheyenne, is its founding director.

The museum will feature exhibits of past and current native American life, as well as traditions of other native peoples of the west.

"It was always desired that the building be somewhat iconographic in its form," said Blue Spruce, who liaised between the museum and the designers. It will have three exhibits: beadwork, baskets and pottery from the native communities of North, Central and South America; history told from a native perspective; contemporary native lives and culture.

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