Archive Center FAQ

Are all of the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), Heye Foundation records at the NMAI Archive Center?

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.

Do you have copies of Indian Notes, Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian, and other MAI publications?

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.

A Smithsonian anthropologist made a wax cylinder recording of my relative a long time ago. Does the Archive Center have that recording?

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.

I am compiling my family history. What genealogical materials does the Archive Center have?

The Archive Center does not hold any genealogical records. For genealogical information about your ancestors, the best place to begin your research is the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) website or a local historical society. Here are links to relevant pages on NARA’s website:

General genealogical material at NARA: http://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/

Native American genealogical material at NARA: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/index.html

General Native American material at NARA: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/

Native American material at NARA (arranged by topic): http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/topics/native-americans/

NARA General Contact Information:
Archives I Reference Section
Textual Archives Services Division (NWCT1R)
National Archives Building
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20408
PHONE: 866-272-6272
FAX: 202-357-5936
EMAIL: Archives1reference@nara.gov

Information about state, territorial, and local historical societies can be found on Wikipedia.

Does the Archive Center have treaty records?

No, the Archive Center does not hold any treaty records. All treaties are part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Record Group 11 in Washington, D.C.

Native American material at NARA: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/

Native American material at NARA (arranged by topic): http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/topics/native-americans/

NARA General Contact Information:
Archives I Reference Section
Textual Archives Services Division (NWCT1R)
National Archives Building
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20408
PHONE: 866-272-6272
FAX: 202-357-5936
EMAIL: Archives1reference@nara.gov

Where can I find Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) records?

All official BIA records are in National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Record Group 75 in Washington, D.C. and in College Park, MD. Most documents are housed in the D.C. location, and photos and recordings in College Park.

Native American material at NARA: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/

Native American material at NARA (arranged by topic): http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/topics/native-americans/

NARA General Contact Information:
Archives I Reference Section
Textual Archives Services Division (NWCT1R)
National Archives Building
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20408
PHONE: 866-272-6272
FAX: 202-357-5936
EMAIL: Archives1reference@nara.gov

Does the Archive Center have tribal administrative records?

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.

How do I order a digital image of an item from the NMAI’s collections?

Please see the Digital Image Requests page.

May I use NMAI materials in my film, documentary, or television broadcast?

Written permission must first be secured from NMAI’s Public Relations Officer in order to use any NMAI footage or stills in a film, documentary, or television broadcast. If permission is granted, the requestor must then place an image order and pay all associated image fees.

I am looking for an old NMAI webcast and can’t find it on your website. Where is it?

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.

I am looking for NMAI curatorial, exhibition, and administrative records. Does the Archive Center have them?

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 osiaref@si.edu or by calling 202-633-5870.

What should I expect when I come to the NMAI Archive Center to conduct research?

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.

Woman Ready to Move, Tiburon Island (Seri), March 1924. Photograph by Edward H. Davis. (P06268)

Larry McNeil, Tlingit/Nisga′a (Niska), A resident of the village of Angoon, preparing sockeye salmon in the traditional manner, filleting the fish and then smoking it to preserve it for use in winter, ca. 1984. (P26515)

Rouma Archaeological Collection, Atacama, Chile, 1919; Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records (Box 310, Folder 29)

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