Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Grand Procession: Dolls from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection

I’ve lived in the DC area for about six years.  My second favorite part of the experience is just knowing the Smithsonian Museums are a quick drive away.  My first favorite part is when my kids cooperate sufficiently such that we can get to the museums and enjoy them.  That actually happened on a recent visit to the National Museum of the American Indian. Yea for us!

We went to see the “Grand Procession: Dolls from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection.”  I had my three kids plus one -14 year old boy, 4 year old girl, and 11 year old girl (who brought a friend – they don’t travel alone at this age).

The American Indian Museum is such a cool space – disadvantage when trying to get the kids through the main floor with a minimum of security guard reminders about no running.  That big open area is just too tempting. 

We went straight to the exhibit on the second floor.  It’s kind of tucked away in the Sealaska Gallery, but that makes it pleasant once you’re in there.  Fewer temptations to run – and you can let your gaggle of kids wander about without fear of losing someone.

The exhibit is quite impressive.  There are dolls made by a selection of artists –and some made by three generations of the same family.  Needless to say, they are lovely.  We were lucky enough to run into a Native American art expert who knew a lot about the dolls.  She told us their history and a bit about how they’re made.  

Each artist typically makes one doll a year.  When we clearly understood these weren’t next year’s American Girl Dolls, we started looking more closely.  I highly recommend researching the exhibit a bit online before you go so you can look really smart in front of your kids.  Even my four year old was busy checking out the beading, the real hair (eeww was her initial reaction), and how the faces differ from artist to artist.  

We spent more time than I would have expected in the gallery.  Once the kids really started looking at the dolls –and especially comparing those made by the grandma, daughter, and granddaughter – they really got into it.

We suffered by comparison to the passing down such skills from generation to generation – my 11 year old wondered out loud what she’s learning from me…gulp.  Uh, I taught you to knit – not that either of our efforts will ever be in a museum (other than tied around our necks as we look at the “real” art).  

I’d highly recommend the exhibit for kids of most ages.  I’ll admit, my 14 year old boy was done before the rest of us.  He pretty much clears out of most museums in record time – with the exception of Air and Space.

He reads every placard…every time.  However, he did enjoy the imagiNATIONS Activity Center at the American Indian Museum – as did the ladies.  We made star quilts and heard great stories from the docent there.  The balancing paddleboat challenge pumped up some sibling competition – in a good way.

All in all, we probably spent 2 hours at just that one Museum.  That’s such a bonus to living so close.  No pressure to see the WHOLE thing in one afternoon.  Just sit back and let the kids explore as long as they’re interested.

The Grand Procession exhibit is at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian through January 5, 2014.  It’s a good way to introduce your kids to that Museum – warm them up to the experience as it were.  The extended summer hours are a bonus as well – we were there later in the afternoon, and it wasn’t crowded.  Easy parking and no lines.

To check out the details before you go, visit their website:

 Convenient Location  5
 Price/Affordability  5
 Kid-Friendly  4
 Available Parking  4
 Overall Rating  5

All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.

Meet the Reviewer!

Cynda Zurfluh is a mother of three

in Northern Virginia.  Her previous

life was a corporate blur of meetings

and marketing.  Her current life,

while still a blur, is all about family,

writing, and small business consulting. 

She pretends to enjoy working out and

really does enjoy taking pictures of

her family – whether they like it or not.

About WF Staff

Washington FAMILY Staff

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