ImagiNATIONS Activity Center



of an Exhibit

by Juan Rodriguez

Published on June 01, 2015 , Modified on June 01, 2015

  • Description:

    ImagiNATIONS Activity Center is located on the third level of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. It first opened on September 25, 2011. First and foremost this exhibit is amazing! I had the opportunity to explore the exhibit before the museum opened its doors to the public, which is why the pictures do not show any visitors present. From start to finish the ImagiNATIONS Exhibit is filled with interactive and engaging objects for individuals 12 and below. They are open daily from 10AM-5:30PM (Picture #3).

    As you enter the exhibit you’re immediately pulled in by the abundance of natural light that is coming through the floor to ceiling windows which allow you to see down below to a fountain that was designed to flow and look like a stream; these windows encompass the entirety of one side of the exhibit and at the end you have the U.S Capitol in the background (Picture #21&22)

    Next, I was very impressed with the use of bilingual signs throughout the entire exhibit (Picture #7). What a great way to give the opportunity for a diverse audience to engage the exhibit. In addition, it encourages both English and Spanish speakers to learn from each other. Furthermore, the exhibit has also hosted guest storytellers such as Gayle Ross (See Attached Youtube URL) which introduced visitors to Cherokee storytelling traditions.

    Approximately half way through, visitors also get a chance to try getting into a kayak followed but another simulator to test your balance if you were inside of a real kayak while in the water (Picture #8&9).

    As you explore further into the exhibit you will come across a multitude of engaging and interactive displays such as the Music Room, where visitors can come and try their hand at traditional American Indian instruments (Picture #10). There is also an “Explore the Wetlands” station where young visitors can put their ear to a tube and hear various animal vocalizations. Based on the vocalization the user then has to identify which type of bird is making that call (See Attached Media File – Red-tailed Hawk and Picture #12).

    Further into the exhibit you then come to the Skateboarding video game. The day I arrived the simulator had not been turned on yet but as you can see in Picture #13, the young visitor can get on top of the skateboard and move it side to side as they hold onto the railing for stability – the skateboard is stationary but is a great way to get the visitor to interface and interact with an object. Right next to this exhibit is the “Art on Deck” Display (Picture #14). I thought this was a very creative way for the museum planners to connect the traditional art to modern art of American Indians. It was also a good way to interweave the Museum’s traveling exhibit called “Ramp it Up” ( See Attached Ramp it Up Website URL)

    Finally, towards the end of the exhibit you encounter an area where you can experience and see the different housing structures of American Indians and indigenous groups. For instance the iglu construction area (Picture #15), which gives parents an opportunity to share in the fun of building an iglu together with their children. While you do this you can also see a video of an actual igloo being constructed. There is also a life size comanche tipi (Picture #18) which is flanked by other styles of American Indian living quarters such as the Adobe Houses (Picture #19) and House on Stilts (Picture#20)

    Overall, the ImagiNATIONS Activity Center has so much to offer and is sure to please your family or school groups. Please see the attached website URL on NMAI visit planning for more details for group reservations.

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