This curious little museum recounts the activities of the Department of the Interior, the agency in charge of keeping an eye on our natural resources. Interior also administers programs related to Native Americans, and some of the most interesting exhibits here include classic Pueblo pottery, Cherokee baskets and contemporary Native American art.
An Indian canoe hangs from the ceiling, and a video speaks to the challenges of merging the traditional with the modern in Native American affairs. The bulk of the museum, however, has a school report feel to it, with topographic maps showing mineral deposits, examples of various types of rocks, a mounted bison head and other taxidermied animals.
Children might enjoy running their hands over a small-scale model of Mount Rushmore or peering into the anachronistic dioramas scattered throughout (sponge fishermen, sheep farmers, a 1939 view of Washington, Juneau at night). Too bad most of the dioramas are up too high for younger kids to look into.
Across the hall is the Indian Crafts Shop. Most of the merchandise is pricey jewelry, textiles and dolls, but all are authentic. There are a few sticker books and paper dolls, though, that are within a child's budget.
-- John Kelly and Craig Stoltz
Words to the wise: This one is chiefly for federal completists or Native American enthusiasts. For guided tours, call two weeks in advance.
Food: There are no easy commercial choices close by. You may want to bring lunch and picnic on the Mall.
Nearby: Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.