Smithsonian National Museum Of The American Indians Teachers Sheet
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN
Washington, DC and New York, NY
The teacher asks the whole class the following questions:
1. What do you take into consideration when you buy domestic objects?
(Price? Beauty? Size? Origin? Usefulness? Material? Texture?)
2. Do you prefer to buy modern objects or antiques to decorate your house?
Every culture has its own way of looking at the world and representing it. The
artists express themselves taking the surrounding world into consideration. The
National Museum of the American Indian is privileged to have an extraordinary
collection based on Charles and Valerie Diker’s love of beautiful objects.
The teacher selects some museum pictures of domestic Indian items, household
objects for everyday use, or shows available realia. The teacher has whole- class
discussion by asking the questions below:
1. What were they used for?
2. What were they made of?
3. How were they made?
4. How were made personal, identifiable to the person who produced them?
5. How much labor went into their production?
6. When they became commercially negotiable, how was their value
After students talk about the questions above, the teacher displays pictures or
realia of modern versions of the objects mentioned. The students work in pairs and
answer the questions below in a moving-paper activity.
1. Are the majority of these items important personally or functionally?
2. What determines their commercial value?
3. What determines their commercial value?
4. What determines our willingness to pay for, or our choices between one
type or another of a similar object?
5. What is the estimated life expectancy of most of these items?
6. How do any of these items earn regard as being “traditional” or “antique”?
7. What is our “relationship” to most of these items?
8. What inspires a deeper relationship in some cases?
9. How much of our individuality is reflected in our choice and treatment of
10. How does the existence of these objects affect the ecological balance in the
so-called “developed” societies?
11. How “developed” is the result of mass-produced factory-made objects of
1. Each student chooses any object (picture or realia) from the table to
describe as his/her favorite possession.
2. The student defends his/her relationship to it from the angle of any of the
considerations above and makes a list of these considerations.
3. Each student writes a paragraph describing the object and its importance to
4. Finally, students work in groups to share their writings with peers.
Visit the National Museum of the American Indian at:
Visit the “First American Art – The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of
American Indian Art, an online exhibition, at: