Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Cultural Resources Center

The Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland is one of three facilities making up the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. This branch is specifically responsible for research surrounding the Museum’s collections. In all of its work, the Cultural Resources Center is guided by Indigenous methods, which respond to tribal communities’ needs for access to specific objects, use culturally-sensitive approaches to handling and storage, and take seriously the need for Native-centered presentation of the materials. On site, the Vine Deloria, Jr. Library, named for leading Indigenous intellectual Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota), offers over 40,000 resources specialized in Native American subjects. 

The Cultural Resources Center building was creating in partnership with Indigenous-led architecture firms and the design incorporates cultural elements from various Native American tribes. The structure, for instance, is oriented toward the four directions and utilizes an entryway facing east. The curvature of the building reflects the importance of spirals and their commonality in the natural environment: “nautilus shell, spider web, pine cone, butterfly wing.” The landscaping also highlight indigenous plants. The facility opened in 1999, and won the Construction Award from Buildings Magazine and the Award of Excellence in Commercial Architecture from the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects the following year.

Image: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Cultural Resources Center

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Designed by Brian Habib