Thursday, Dec 3, 2009
When Henry Hudson arrived 400 years ago in what was to become known as New York Harbor, he did not find a landscape devoid of human beings. He discovered a people – the Lenape – as well as a place. “Lenape: Ellis Island’s First Inhabitants” tells the story of these Native Americans from pre-contact through the 21st century as it explores their languages, cultures, and religious traditions.
The exhibit integrates a variety of materials, including prehistoric artifacts, antique books, maps, archival photographs, traditional Lenape clothing and crafts, ceremonial objects, illustrations, paintings and dioramas, bronze sculptures, and documentary films, that create a historical narrative. These materials are combined with quotations on a wide variety of subjects by traditional Lenape.
The museum staff at Ellis Island worked tirelessly with exhibit curator David M. Oestreicher, Ph.D, using the content generated by him to design and develop the exhibit. Their contributions in this area also included the graphic design for the exhibition as well as editing of the text provided for length and accessibility and incorporating suggestions from one of the Delaware tribes, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.
They also worked with Oestreicher and curatorial consultant Karen Frederic to reorganize the exhibition to fit within the galleries and have a coherent thematic structure. Museum staffers assisted in the selection of artifacts, developed two interactive computer kiosks that will enable visitors to access supplemental content, located additional images to illustrate text, and installed the exhibit.
The result is a finely tuned experience that leads visitors through the Lenape people’s experiences from their earliest known presence in the area, through their fateful encounter with Henry Hudson, past their removal from their ancestral homeland to their present-day communities in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
“Lenape: Ellis Island’s First Inhabitants” is located in the third floor galleries of the main building at Ellis Island and runs through January 10th.