I have been awaiting the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian for months, so I was surprised to read in your Sept. 19 edition a description of the museum that, if correct, indicates a lost opportunity.
Joel Achenbach [Sunday Arts] described the museum as a poke in the eye of science. He elaborates by saying that "one thing visitors won't encounter in the museum is a scientific explanation of how the Americas were populated," because, apparently, the explanation "conflicts with the cosmologies of many native peoples" and the museum made a "decision to ignore the scientific debate." This is not good news in a country that needs more science, not less.
Achenbach's observations were topped by Philip Kennicott [Sunday Arts], who described the museum as a "monument . . . to a way of thinking that emphasizes multiple voices and playful forms of truth over the lazy acceptance of . . . scientific 'certainty.' " I am not sure what part of science Kennicott would consider lazy, or whether uncritical acceptance of "playful forms of truth" (whatever that means) is in fact lazier.
In deference to the decision to regard cosmologies as valid alternatives to science, perhaps we should close down the museums of natural history and replace them with exhibits based on the narrative of creationism.
-- Daniele C. Struppa
Marc Fisher's Sept. 21 Metro column, "Indian Museum's Appeal, Sadly, Only Skin-Deep," was deeply misguided.
Fisher says the exhibits in the National Museum of the American Indian allow "the Indians [to] present themselves as they wish to be seen." Oh, how terrible! Fisher complains about other museums that continue down this "troubling path" of letting groups of people present themselves in their own way, from Holocaust survivors to African Americans. Fisher seems to imply that this misrepresents history because it lacks the context of a larger and more critical worldview.
What Fisher fails to understand is that all of the Smithsonian Institution museums present a one-dimensional view: that of the dominant, primarily white culture of the past few centuries.
The National Museum of the American Indian provides another angle. Why should it be the duty of the National Museum of the American Indian to present a critical view of Native American culture or of how Native American culture fits in to white culture, when much of the history we learn in museums and elsewhere does not bother to include the Native American view?
I applaud the National Museum of the American Indian and other museums that have the nerve to show us another way of looking at history. And I applaud the visitors who will be smart enough to see the difference.
-- Sandra Black