"The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of Native Americans. Established by an Act of Congress in 1989, the museum works in collaboration with the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere to protect and foster their cultures by reaffirming traditions and beliefs, encouraging contemporary artistic expression, and empowering the Indian voice." The museum includes the The George Gustav Heye Center in Manhattan, the Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and the Cultural Resources Center (CRC) in Suitland, Maryland.
The National Museum of the American Indian, one of the most beautiful museums in New York City, is located in the old Customs House across the street from Battery Park. The exterior looks like an ancient Greek temple with columns and complex statues and the inside is even more grand, the walls and the floor are polished white marble and the ceilings are covered with paintings. The design of the building itself is so beautiful that it is worth the visit just to see it.
The museum's galleries are arranged in a semicircle surrounding the Rotunda. There is a lot of text presented with the works and the museum has the feel of a place that was set up for people to take their time and study. The space inside the galleries is rather winding and can be a little bit disorienting, but since the galleries form a semicircle, it's almost impossible to get lost.
Even though the exhibits are located on only one floor of the customs house, the NMAI is a big museum with a large collection of artwork. There is older, more traditional artwork as well as a significant amount of contemporary Native American art.
On top of all this, the museum is free, so there is no reason not to visit! Plan to spend about four hours seeing all the exhibits, and more if you really want to take your time and read all the accompanying materials.