Review: Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis

This is part of a series of reviews from my time in Indianapolis this past weekend.  Growing up in southwest Ohio, one of the major projects we had to do ( a couple of years) in school was a study of Native American culture.  Several tribes have trekked across the area that I live in and the culture is so rich – while I may not have fully enjoyed having to do the work, the knowledge gained was worth it.  I was excited to see that there is an American Indians and Western Art museum in Indy, so it was top on the list to visit.

**Be sure to check out Anthony’s (PR manager) comment after the review.  He shares some good information that I missed on my trip.**

Here’s the specs:

Eiteljorg Museum
500 W Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
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The Eiteljorg, pronounced “I-tell-zhorg”, Museum is located right along White River State Park.  This makes it easy to access from pretty much anywhere in Downtown Indy, whether by car or on foot.  We got there on foot, so I can’t comment on the underground parking garage, but the woman at the counter asked if we were parked down there, so I’m thinking there’s a discount or voucher they offer.  Museum hours are Mon-Sat 10a-5p and Sunday noon-5p.  Sometimes this can vary depending on events in the city, so call ahead to double-check.

A lot of it is art – paintings, sculptures, etc. Some are examples of handmade items such as textiles, pottery, weaponry, and beadwork.  If you are into that kind of stuff, then this is a really neat museum.  On the second floor, there is a full gallery depicting native tribes from around the continent.  Historical details and traditional clothing, art, shelters, and lifestyles are shown throughout the exhibit.  I personally love history, so this was a really interesting part for me.

There was an interesting exhibit on the 1st Floor called “Red/Black” and it was all about Native and African American combined heritage and multi-ethnicity.  One thing that I liked about this exhibit is how they show a person’s ethnic identity as being their culture and something personal, rather than a person’s blood and physical features.  As a Christian, I believe that all people come from Noah and his wife and therefore, there are not different ‘races’ of man, but one race with many cultures.

This wasn’t my favorite part of my trip, but I think I just wasn’t in the right mindset.  We didn’t plan to spend a lot of time there and maybe would have done better to eat in the cafe as well.  Also, I didn’t see anything for kids, and though I am an adult, I learn a lot from the creative exhibits made to help children learn.  They seem to have a lot of community events going on in partnership with the museum.  One such event is West Fest 2011, which will be September 24, 2011.  Check out the website for more information!

So here’s the breakdown:

The museum:  It’s an art museum, mostly, and then there are informational exhibits on native American tribes across the continent.  It’s quiet except for some of the kids who were dragged through it with parents and we crying to be let out.  I didn’t blame them.  Some photography is allowed, but you have to check the entrance to the exhibit to see if there is a “no cameras” sign.
For kids: I didn’t see much for kids to do.  Granted, we didn’t explore all of the museum, but from the sounds of kids who were going through the primary exhibits and areas, it didn’t sound like much fun.  Not sure I would have enjoyed it as a kid either.  Not much to touch or explore, although there was one spot you could build your own mini-teepee (a little high for younger kids to reach, though).  Check the website if you want more info for family features.
The cost:  It’s a moderately-priced museum.  Adults are $8.  Seniors, 65+ are $7. Kids 5-17 and college students (with ID) are $5.  Kids under 5 are Free, as are Members (about $50 for one year) and IUPUI folk.
The food: Sky City Cafe is in the museum with access from the outside.  We didn’t eat there since we had just had some delicious Cuban food downtown, but from the menu, the options are mostly around sandwiches from about $8-$9.50 each of the southwestern style.  There are also some salads and a Mexicana section.  I went to a native American museum in Wichita and they had traditional Indian food, which was fun.  I don’t see anything like that on this menu.
The help:  Attendant at the admissions counter tried every way possible to get us a discounted ticket. If you are staying at a hotel in the city, you can get a dollar knocked off the price.  One woman in the Red/Black exhibit kind of rudely told me to put away my camera, but I didn’t take it too personally.
The parking: Parking garage underground, parking at White River State Park, and parking at various garages throughout the downtown. If you park in the State garage, know that you can only use cash to pay.
The accommodations: It’s an Art Museum, comfort isn’t really high on the priority list, but there are a lot of pretty things to look at.
Returnability:  I probably won’t go back. I feel like I saw enough of the museum.  The Museum Store had a lot of neat things though, especially some traditional tea blends (my favorite is the Warrior Brew). I’m pretty sure you can go in there without getting a ticket to the museum.

2 thoughts on “Review: Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis

  1. Thank you for visiting the museum, and I am sad to hear you probably won’t be back. We try very hard to make every visitor’s visit a memorable one and one that they would want to come back to. Each year, we make efforts to bring the art to life through events and festivals like WestFest, as mentioned in your review, but also we have Indian Market and Festival and many other programs. Also, I am sad to hear you missed the family Western experience on the canal level of the museum. This is a great hands-on learning experience where you can make a totem pole, walk into a Navajo hogan or climb aboard a true-to-life stagecoach. I hope the next time you are in town you give us another try as we are continuing to make things new and keep things fresh with engaging special exhibits and great programming. Thank you again for your visit. (By the way, we do offer free parking in the underground garage when you visit the museum, eat in the cafe or shop in the store.)

    • Thanks for stopping by Anthony! As I was going through the museum website to gather other info for this review, I got the feeling that we had missed a whole level. So, I tried to get that across in the review, that from what I saw there wasn’t anything for kids, but that we may not have seen everything. I added a line at the beginning of the review to alert people to read your comment, so hopefully they will get the information you provided as well. I still probably will not go back to the museum (for a long time anyway), since I’m from out of town, but also because I like to explore different things in cities that I visit. I probably will not go back to the Children’s Museum or the Zoo for a long time either, so please, don’t think I have very hard feelings. Thanks for everything you are doing and for the museum! They are such a vital part to our communities across the nation. And thanks again for stopping by!

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