The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Archive Center holds the vast majority of MAI, Heye Foundation records. However, the Archive Center is the custodian of only those records formerly housed at the Audubon Terrace in New York City. MAI, Heye Foundation materials formerly housed at the Huntington Free Library are now in the collections of Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collections. The Division’s Huntington Free Library Native American Collection includes 4,000 rare books, several significant manuscript collections, photographs, and works of art.
Please contact Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collections for more information on and access to the Huntington Free Library collection.
The full text of most MAI publications, including Indian Notes and Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian, is available online through the Internet Archive. A list of MAI publications available online can be accessed through the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.
The simple answer is no, the NMAI does not have the recordings made by the Smithsonian in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The MAI, Heye Foundation was not part of the Smithsonian at the time those recordings were made (learn more about the history of the NMAI). These recordings are now at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
The anthropologists who made early ethnographic recordings of Native Americans worked for the Smithsonian’s Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE). This office no longer exists, and most of the materials they created are housed at the National Anthropological Archives, which is part of the Department of Anthropology in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The National Anthropological Archives does have copies of some BAE recordings. The originals, however, were transferred to the Library of Congress, where they are now in the collection of the American Folklife Center. These wax cylinders, which include very early American Indian recordings from all over North America by Frances Densmore, Alice Cunningham Fletcher, John P. Harrington, and others, were preserved in the 1970s and 1980s through the Federal Cylinder Project.
No, the Archive Center does not hold the administrative records for any tribes, tribal museums, or state or local historical societies. For access to these types of materials, contact the tribes, tribal museums, or state or local historical societies directly.
The Archive Center does not maintain the museum’s webcasts. Webcasts of past events are archived on the NMAI’s YouTube channel. If you cannot find a past NMAI webcast online, please email NMAIArchives@si.edu and we will do our best to provide access information for that webcast.
No, the Archive Center does not manage the NMAI’s records. The museum’s curatorial, exhibition, and administrative records are housed at the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA). Many of the finding aids to these records can be found in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS). Make sure to limit your search to those collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For further instructions on searching and SIA, please visit the SIA website.
The majority of the NMAI's records in SIA custody are open to researchers without restrictions. However, in some cases, sensitive materials may be restricted. Any such restrictions are indicated at the beginning of each finding aid. Access to restricted materials requires explicit permission from the NMAI. Researchers must apply directly to the pertinent NMAI office.
To access the NMAI’s records, please contact an SIA Reference Archivist via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 202-633-5870.
Please see Accessing Archive Center Collections In Person.
Visitor Information and Reading Room Procedures
If arriving via car or public transportation, please enter at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center (MSC) main security gate. You will need to present photo identification to the security guard and announce that you have an appointment at the Archive Center. Proceed to the Cultural Resources Center (CRC) main entrance (located at the top of the parking lot, not the loading dock area), present photo identification, and tell the security guard that you have an appointment at the Archive Center. The guard will alert a staff member who will meet you at the entrance.
Register your laptops and other valuables at the CRC security desk when you enter the building. You will not be permitted to leave the building with any unregistered items, including your personal laptop.
Researchers are permitted to bring only pencils, paper, and laptop computers into the reading room. All bags must be stored in provided lockers. Notebooks and binders will be examined by staff before you leave.
Cameras and scanners are not permitted in the Archive Center due to conservation concerns and copyright restrictions.
Wi-Fi is available in the reading room.
Food is available in the Smithsonian MSC cafeteria, which is adjacent to the CRC. The cafeteria only accepts cash payments. You may also bring a packed lunch. A refrigerator and microwave are available for visitors' use. Indoor and outdoor seating areas are also available for visitors.