Thank you for your interest in volunteering for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Volunteers have provided an important means of support for the Smithsonian Institution since its establishment in 1846. Dedicated to the "increase and diffusion of knowledge," the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum complex with research facilities in the United States and abroad. The NMAI, with public locations on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and in New York City, is an important center for research committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present, and future—through partnership with Native people and others. The museum works to support the continuance of culture, traditional values, and transitions in contemporary Native life.

Qualified volunteers are patient, compassionate, effective communicators, interested in Native American art and cultures, and are enthusiastic about learning and teaching. Flexibility, good judgment, and the ability to work independently as well as within groups are additional skills for successful candidates. Applicants must be available on regular weekdays or on weekends and able to commit to the program. The NMAI provides all the necessary training to make volunteers successful.

Opportunities for participation


Lelawi Theater: Museum visitors are encouraged to begin their visit at the Lelawi Theater. Opportunities at the Lelawi include working outside of the theater at a designated station, answering visitor questions, and keeping count of visitor numbers. 

imagiNATIONS Activity Center:  Kids, kids and more kids! If you've always wanted to interact with younger audiences and families, you have come to the right spot. Opportunities at the Center include maintenance and clean up, assisting with hands-on activities, and greeting visitors.

Welcome Desk: "Working the desk" is a wonderful way to meet and greet museum visitors. Opportunities here include answering visitor questions, directing visitors to destinations inside and outside of the museum, and helping to set the "tone" of the museum for visitors.


Cultural Arts (performing arts, arts demonstrations, thematic festivals): Responsibilities vary but may include greeting the public, passing out programs and other literature, staffing an information table, assisting backstage, and/or helping with set-up/break down. Some events take place on weekends or evenings.

Film & Video: For special screenings, volunteers help by handing out programs and evaluation forms and keeping track of visitor numbers. During "Dinner and A Movie" programs, volunteers collect tickets, hand out programs, and greet visitors. Volunteers may also help visitors with email sign-up sheets, provide membership information, and collect program evaluation forms.

Seminars & Symposia Programs: Intrigued by the themes of "American Indian Knowledge," "American Indian Expression," "Contact," and "American Indian Origins"? The NMAI's Seminars & Symposia programs provide a public forum for engagement with these and other vital historical and contemporary topics of concern and interest to Native peoples and the general public. Volunteers assist with participant logistics, setting up, ushering, handing out programs, and answering questions. The ability to speak Spanish is helpful for some programs. Those interested in helping out on a continuing basis are heartily welcomed!


Membership Information Table Staffer for Public Programs:Volunteers meet current and prospective members at various public programs and events, including concerts, cultural presentations, lectures, and plays.  Membership table staffers provide information on the membership program, register new members, and encourage visitors to sign up for the museum's e-newsletter.


To view current volunteering opportunities at the NMAI in Washington, D.C., and New York, N.Y., as well as throughout the Smithsonian, visit the Smithsonian’s Available Opportunities for Volunteer Service page, and apply online.