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National Museum of the American Indian

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The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has one of the most extensive collections of Native American arts and artifacts in the worldapproximately 266,000 catalog records (825,000 items) representing over 12,000 years of history and more than 1,200 indigenous cultures throughout the Americas. Ranging from ancient Paleo-Indian points to contemporary fine arts, the collections include works of aesthetic, religious, and historical significance as well as articles produced for everyday use. Current holdings include all major culture areas of the Western Hemisphere, representing virtually all tribes in the United States, most of those of Canada, and a significant number of cultures from Middle and South America and the Caribbean. Approximately 68 percent of the object collections originate in the United States, with 3.5 percent from Canada, 10 percent from Mexico and Central America; 11 percent from South America; and 6 percent from the Caribbean. Overall, 55 percent of the collection is archaeological, 43 percent ethnographic, and 2 percent modern and contemporary arts. (These figures are based on catalog numbers, not number of items, where single catalog numbers encompassing dozens of shreds or projectile points would skew percentages toward archaeology.) In terms of collections growth, NMAI continues to focus actively on modern and contemporary arts, relying on donations for the expansion of earlier ethnographic collections. Given the 1970 passage of UNESCO regulations controlling antiquities exports from Latin America, and North American Indian peoples continuing ambivalence about archaeology, there is little expectation for substantial growth of the archaeological collections. And although NMAIs enabling legislation encompasses Hawaii, the museum does not accept or collect Native Hawaiian material

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