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ART LOSS, DAMAGE, AND REPERCUSSIONS
Proceedings of an IFAR Symposium on February 28, 2002
The Downtown Institutional Impact
by John Haworth
[John Haworth is Director, George Gustav Heye Center, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The Museum is located four blocks from Ground Zero.]
This past weekend my museum had Native American storytellers read to capacity crowds. The National Museum of the American Indian's Heye Center in lower Manhattan is on the rebound. Let me start by reading from the story Coyote in Love with a Star by Marty Kriepe de Montano. This children's book published by the museum tells the tender story of Coyote coming to New York. On the cover is a picture of Coyote with the shirt "WTC [World Trade Center] Rodent Control."
Here is the "quick history" to put my museum in the context of New York City history and downtown:
My own "sound bite" is that the National Museum of the American Indian is about the People Who Were First Here, and—looking across the waterway—Ellis Island is about the People Who Came Here. The downtown New York cultural community—with significant museums focused primarily on history, architecture and cultural ideas—is second as a group only to our colleagues on Fifth Avenue [uptown]. Downtown itself is the third largest central business district in the country, and as we are recovering from 9/11, we need to celebrate, honor and support this cultural cluster. As the city, state, Mayor's Office, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Regional Plan Association, and Municipal Arts Society, the American Institute of Architects, and others work through "What Next?", it is critical to have the cultural groups front and center in the rebuilding effort.
The building that houses my museum, the United States Custom House, itself was empty for about two decades. The custom agency itself moved into the World Trade Center.
In the 1980s there was considerable public discussion about the future of the Museum of the American Indian, once located at Audubon Terrace. Several options were put on the table, including moving the institution to Dallas, Texas. The compromise was a remarkable public-private partnership. The United States Congress passed legislation in 1989 to create the National Museum of the American Indian, and we currently are building a major museum on the National Mall in Washington. The Attorney General's Office in New York assured us that there also would be an ongoing—permanent—presence in New York. David Rockefeller was a strong advocate for the use of the U.S. Custom House as our New York headquarters. With the financial help of then Governor Mario Cuomo and then Mayor Ed Koch—certainly in difficult times financially for both the city and state—over $17 million was provided by the New York State and New York City governments toward the capital renovation of the Custom House to accommodate the museum. The architectural firm of Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn did the renovations—with considerable national recognition and kudos. Though we have federal operating support—allowing us to be one of a handful of NYC museums with a free public admission—there is an expectation that we raise private sector funds to support educational programs and exhibitions.Continue to page 2