On November 14, 1922, George Gustav Heye opened to the public the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation in New York City to display his collection of Native American artifacts. Heye, a mining engineer, began collecting Native American artifacts while working in Arizona in 1896. The museum, founded in 1916, was located at Audubon Terrace and there was also a research branch in the Bronx where collections were available for research and study.
After Heye's death in 1957, the future of the museum was in doubt. Some thoughts were to transfer the collection to the American Museum of Natural History in New York or possibly for it to be purchased by businessman, H. Ross Perrot. Neither of these options came to pass.
It was not until the 1980s when discussions began with the Smithsonian that a home would be found for the Museum of the American Indian. On November 18, 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed legislation creating the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Smithsonian. Today the museum consists of the George Gustave Heye Center in New York City (unfortunately because of Hurricane Sandy the Heye Center is temporarily closed), the Cultural Resources Center facility in Maryland, and the museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
- History of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution Archives