June 23, 2017

Bayonne Bridge Steel Rope, Making History in Lower Manhattan

By Neal Buccino, special to Portfolio, photographs by the Port Authority’s Mike Dombrowski

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The museum’s exhibition designer Gerard Breen showing the Port Authority’s Roger Prince a model of the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, where the steel suspender rope will be displayed.

Six centuries ago, engineers in the Inka Empire designed cable bridges long enough to span Peru’s mountain gorges and durable enough to withstand earthquakes.

They wove these bridges out of grass and made them remarkably strong, using principles of physics that today support modern-day marvels such as the George Washington Bridge and Bayonne Bridge.

Next year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York—located in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan—will help students learn about these technological achievements, with a little help from the Port Authority. The agency recently donated to the museum a five-foot length of steel suspender rope from the Bayonne Bridge, one of the 152 original steel ropes that held up its 9,800-ton roadway for 85 years.

Made of more than 200 tightly wrapped steel wires, the suspender rope was removed as part of the Port Authority’s Raise the Roadway project, which will permit ultra-large container ships to navigate the Kill van Kull.

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Roger Prince and the Smithsonian's Kevin Gover with the five-foot section of donated Bayonne Bridge suspender rope.

The cable will live on in the museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center, expected to debut next April. There, the steel rope (tensile strength: 950,000 pounds) will be displayed next to a grass rope with a tensile strength of 4,000 pounds, of the kind still used in Peru’s last remaining rope bridge, the Q’eswachaka.

Nearby, suspended from the ceiling, visitors will see a 26-foot section of an actual rope bridge built by the modern-day keepers of the Q’eswachaka Bridge. The 4,500-square-foot imagiNATIONS Activity Center will include interactive exhibits on Native American innovations across fields as varied as engineering and architecture, medicine, and nutrition. 

Bayonne Bridge cable 2 The Bayonne Bridge suspender rope had to be tested for lead and other contaminants before donation. This swab test was performed by Mike Hunt, Office of Safety Health & Environmental Management, Smithsonian.

The exhibit will help visiting students understand how, with flexible strands of any material twisted and braided together, a rope much stronger than its component parts can be created.

“Showcasing a section of Bayonne Bridge steel cable alongside an Inka bridge rope made of ichu grass highlights the continuity in engineering concepts the Inka and their descendants have used for millennia,” said Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “Native innovation is everywhere in modern life, and this is one instance where we can directly point to it and provide that a-ha moment.”

“This steel rope carries all the history of the Bayonne Bridge, which in its day was the longest steel arch bridge in the world,” said Roger Prince, the Port Authority’s deputy director of Tunnels, Bridges, and Terminals. “We hope it provides an educational experience for everyone who visits the imagiNATIONS Center.”

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This story originally appeared on Portfolio, the official blog of the Port Authority of New York. Used with permission. The imagiNATIONS Activity Center at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York is scheduled to open in spring 2018.

To learn more about Inka technology, visit the exhibition "The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire" online or at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. You can see neighboring communities work together as they do every year to rebuild the rope bridge at Q’eswachaka—including making the grass cables that support it—in the exhibition video here.

Q'eswachaka suspension bridge, 2014. Q'eswachaka, Apurimac River, Canas Province, Cusco, Peru. Photo by NMAI Media Initiatives, Smithsonian

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September 08, 2015

Interning at the Museum: Safak Tezer, Exhibition Design

The blog series Interning at the Museum highlights the projects and accomplishments of the National Museum of the American Indian's interns. Each intern completes a 10-week internship in a department at one of the museum's three facilities—the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland; or George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum’s Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015. These interviews feature members of this year's recently completed summer session. —Sarah Frost 

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Safak Tezer brought design skills and experience to her intern position at the museum in New York.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

My name is Safak Tezer, I just received my MA in exhibition design from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, and I’m from Istanbul, Turkey.

What department did you intern in, and what projects did you work on?

My internship was with the Exhibit Design staff at the museum's Heye Center in New York. Projects I worked on include the Infinity of Nations exhibition and the imagiNations Activity Center, which is especially for children. For the imagiNATIONS project, I created 3D designs for an activity called Many Kinds of Rope, drew illustrations for mock-ups, and did sketches for scaling purposes for Day in Your Life panels.

Why did you decide to intern at NMAI?

I wanted to experience designing exhibits within a museum setting versus a corporate trade show environment. The NMAI internship has allowed me to utilize my experience in interior architecture, along with the recent skill set I obtained in the Master of Arts program at FIT. Furthermore, learning about Native Americans has been an exciting experience for a person who is from a different part of the world. 

What is your favorite aspect of your internship?

I enjoyed being able to work on different projects in a variety of ways. This has helped me to improve my design skills. I met amazing people, learned from them, and benefitted from their experiences. In my opinion, human relationships are more valuable than anything!   

What have you learned, and what do you hope to achieve because of this internship?

Interning at NMAI has been a wonderful opportunity and has given me hands-on experience working in a museum setting. I have learned a lot about how a museum operates—the day-to-day workings and programming. My expectations have been exceeded. My NMAI experience will no doubt help me along my career path both nationally and internationally.

How has interning helped you understand your own cultural interests?

Native Americans’ philosophy of life has always been of interest to me. I come from a different background as a Turkish person. Even though globalization has lessened unique cultural differences between people, we continue to have distinct sensibilities. It has been nice to be influenced by my new surroundings, which have contributed to my philosophy of life.

Do you have advice for aspiring interns?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. It is important to remain open to new and different experiences. Everything can teach you something. You never know what you will gain through your internship. 

Interviewer Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum as a member of the Web staff, helping launch the Inka Road website and other new projects online and in social media. She will continue to work on the museum's digital projects this fall.

Photo courtesy of Safak Tezer; used with permission. 

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July 31, 2015

Museum Interns Take New York: A Photo Journal

On July 10, 12 NMAI interns and fellows visited the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. We arrived at the museum as thousands of fans poured into lower Manhattan to shower us with cheers and admiration, or was that for the U.S. women’s soccer team?

As the crowds dispersed we headed into the museum, but not before taking a picture with a U.S. marshal (below).

Interns & US marshal


We were greeted by Duane Blue Spruce , public spaces planning coordinator (below, wearing a red shirt). After a round of introductions, he told us about his involvement with the Heye Center. His experience began when the museum was the Museum of the American Indian at West 155th and Broadway, before it became part of the Smithsonian and moved downtown. Duane showed us two books he created to illustrate the experiences of Native peoples in the New York City area—Mother Earth, Father Skyline: The Native American Experience in New York City and Concrete Tipi. “It’s fun to come and work here every day,” he said, “because the things we produce represent Native people and educate the public. We’re doing good stuff.”

John Haworth and GGHC staff speaking with interns


We were joined by John Haworth, NMAI assistant director for Museum Programs (above, far right), who told us about the imagiNATIONS project being developed in New York. This new hands-on learning space will be geared towards pre-teens and will demonstrate the ingenuity of Native peoples, including their contributions in food, medicine, and architecture. Connor Bliss, an intern in the Exhibits Department, explained that “being able to witness the progress that is being made on . . . the imagiNATIONS Activity Center has further increased the understanding of the exhibitions process I’ve learned here during my time at the Smithsonian.” 

Peter BrillLater, Peter Brill, deputy assistant director of the museum in New York (right), walked us through the exhibit design process. His enthusiasm for the museum was infectious, and he encouraged us to speak up and present our ideas: “In these projects, you have a voice, and it’s important to think and be responsive to each other, bring your ideas forward, and try not to be fearful of making a silly suggestion.”

Charlotte Basch, an intern in Community and Constituent Services, told me she was impressed by how encouraging the New York staff is: “It was a great opportunity to see that each individual plays an important role in the NMAI and Smithsonian network. . . . Peter and Duane and everyone else were obviously excited about the work they do for both tribal communities and their fellow New Yorkers.”

Carrie Gonzalez 1 Carrie Gonzalez 2
Carrie Gonzalez 3

Carrie Gonzalez, a cultural interpreter on the Heye Center staff, then guided us on a wonderful tour of the museum (above and right). She also led us through three major exhibitions: Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family, Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American, and Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed, as well as Circle of Dance.  

Carrie told us that she leads school groups on tours during the school year, sometimes with over 50 kids! I think we were slightly easier to manage.  

We also got the chance to explore the museum’s activity center (below). Some interns tried their hand at a Yup'ik yo-yo a game that requires the player to take two sealskin balls attached by a caribou-sinew string and swing them around in opposite directions. I ventured into a tipi with Sara Morales, a Collections intern, and spent some time looking at the artwork on the interior. 

Yoyo 1 Yoyo 2 Tipi interior

After the tour was over, the interns scattered across the city—some uptown to see friends, some to Brooklyn. We all left the Heye Center with an appreciation for how the museum is changing understandings of Native lives in New York City.

Manhattan

—Sarah Frost


Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum in Washington, D.C., as a member of the Web staff, working on the Inka Road website and new projects online and in social media. 

Photos: Tipi interior courtesy of Conservation intern Rachel Mochon. View of Manhattan courtesy of Applications intern Abby Malkin. All other photos courtesy of Sarah Frost.


The National Museum of the American Indian's Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015.

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September 05, 2013

Inka Road Research 2013

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The Inka Road crosses the mountainside below Machu Qolqa, a storage point. Urubamba Province, Cusco Department, Peru. 


Dr. Ramiro Matos (Quechua), senior curator for Latin America at the National Museum of the American Indian, has been working for five years on the project Qhapaq Ñan: The Inka Road. In July he and a very small team of museum staff traveled across Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, completing the research needed to present the Inka Road in a major exhibition scheduled to open at the museum in Washington, D.C., in June 2015, and via a symposium and other online events open to a worldwide audience.

The Inka Road is an engineering and distribution marvel. The road system spans more than 24,000 miles, greater than the distance between Florida and Washington State. The Inka used the road to move natural resources from one area to another, transport armies, see to the needs of their citizens, and develop new and sophisticated methods for administering their empire. The forthcoming exhibition will showcase the museum’s stunning collection of objects as it explains the origins of the Inka Empire, details the four expansion areas of the empire (called suyus), and highlights why the road is still relevant today.

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Qorichancha, the Inka Temple of the Sun. Cusco.

Archaeologists from throughout Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia—the six countries that today comprise the region covered by the Inka Road—are key partners in the project. This summer, Dr. Matos and project team spent two weeks in Cusco, Peru, working with consultants on ethnohistoric data for a 3-D model of the Inka capital that will serve as the centerpoint of the exhibit. They then journeyed to Lima for a series of meetings with museum professionals, government agencies, and government representatives. Onward they went to Ecuador, to work with partners in both Cuenca and Quito, and from there to Pasto, Colombia. The research is now close to complete, and the production work is about to begin. 

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A young Quechua girl posing with her baby llama, or cria. Cusco.

In addition to research, the team began scouting for production for photography, video, and 3-D modeling, which will occur next summer if funding permits. Team members have been gathering information for potential cultural arts programs, as well as for the museum shop. They have also been purchasing objects to create “discovery boxes” in the museum’s two imagiNATIONS Activity Centers (open in DC, forthcoming in NY). These boxes will feature hands-on objects that children can explore to learn more about the communities that today live along the Inka Road.  

Please join us in Washington, D.C., on November 14 for a symposium on the engineering principals of the Inka Road. This program will bring together ten of the project’s consultants to discuss the wide range of innovations achieved by the Inka, from the hydrology of Machu Picchu to the model reconstruction of Cusco. The symposium also will be webcast.

Stay tuned for updates about this blockbuster exhibition. In the meantime, here are a few more photographs to give you a sense of what we saw during the research trip.

Cusco

Cusco was the capital and center of the Inka Empire and remains central to the Quechua people, descendants of the Inka. Archaeological evidence of the Inka abounds in Cusco, and Quechua can be heard throughout the city.

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It's astounding how Inka stonework still stands and is being used today. Clockwise from upper left: Pavement of an Inka road. Inka walls—yes, those carvings represent serpents. An Inka doorway, now the entrance to a hotel.


Inti Raymi

The festival Inti Raymi occurs every June around the time of the solstice and marks both traditional and modern governing authority. In the festival, the Inka takes his place in the center of Cusco, and delegations from the four suyus pay him homage. Part of the ceremony takes place at the Plaza de Armas, where the current mayor of Cusco is presented with symbolic control of the city from the Inka. Part of the ceremony takes place at Saqsaywaman, the ceremonial sight at the northwest end of the city; Saqsaywaman serves as the head of the puma, the symbolic shape of Cusco.

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Inti Raymi. Upper: The Inka arriving in the Plaza de Armas, Cusco. Lower: The Antisuyu dance at Saqsaywaman.


Beyond the capital 

Each of the suyus brought different economic and cultural resources to the empire. For example, sites near the coast were important for spondylus shell, which was used as currency as well as in jewelry. Northern sites are famous for the engineering of rope bridges.

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Traveling north in Chinchasuyu. Upper: The Inka Road winds up a hillside. Lower: The foundation of a chaski wasi, one of the houses where messenger runners were stationed. 
 

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At Pachacámac, near Lima, el templo del Sol (the Temple of the Sun). Sections of the temple are original, others are being restored. Detail: Some of the temple's red paint survives; the use of adobe makes construction here very different from the methods and materials seen in Cusco. 

 

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In southern Ecuador the road meets the Rio Jubones. Imagine a cable rope bridge here; you would cross underneath the bridge, perhaps in a basket. Concrete abutments anchored the bridge in recent times. You can also see the Inka Road along the hills on each side of the river.

All photos were taken in July 2013 by Amy van Allen, NMAI.

 

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July 18, 2013

The 2013 Living Earth Festival—Friday, July 19, through Sunday, July 21

LEFestLogo2013The Living Earth Festival, a signature event of the National Museum of the American Indian, will take place this weekend, July 19 through 21. This annual festival celebrates indigenous contributions to environmental sustainability, knowledge, and activism. For a full listing of events, please see the online calendar or downloadable festival brochure. Here are some highlights for visitors of all ages and many different interests.

What activities can families do together? Adults and children in particular are invited to: 

Lisan wins at Santa Fe 2012 cor
Lisan Tiger Blair with the work that won him 1st place in youth sculpture at the 91st Santa Fe Indian Art Market, August 2012; photo by Dana Tiger, courtesy of the artist.
  • Help release lady bugs into the NMAI garden (outside the museum's South Entrance along Maryland Avenue) at 10 AM Friday.
  • Participate in a sculpting workshop led by award-winning young artist Lisan Tiger Blair (Mvskoke Creek) in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center. There are workshops several times each day. Please pick up free timed-entry tickets in advance at the Activity Center.
  • Join Victoria Mitchell (Cherokee Nation) for a pottery demonstration.
  • See amazing beadwork made by Peggy Fontenot (Potawatomi).
  • Enjoy an outdoor cooking demonstration by Patricia Alexander (Pawnee/Creek) or a cheesemaking demonstration by Nancy Coonridge of Pietown, New Mexico.

 

20100806_01a_eba_ps_002Farmers market and green-chile roasting, NMAI photo.

For organic gardeners, locavores, gourmet cooks, and just plain food-lovers: During the festival, representatives of tribally owned food cooperatives discuss sustainability, and local famers offer produce, meat, and traditional American Indian foods in an outdoor farmers market. The festival begins for foodies Friday morning at 10 AM with the opening of the farmer’s market and a green-chile roasting (both outdoors in the Welcome Plaza throughout the festival). Demonstrations of traditional Native dishes, including venison stew, corn soup, and grape dumplings (outdoors in the Akaloa Firepit), begin Friday at 1 PM and continue all weekend. Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, Native chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo) and Don McClellan (Cherokee) will compete in an Iron Chef-style cook off (outdoors in the Welcome Plaza). 

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Chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo) and Don McClellan (Cherokee); photos courtesy of the chefs.


What would a Native festival be without music and dancing?
Live performances begin Friday at 1 PM with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Drum and Dance Troupe. Hawaiian music and dance by Halau Ho'omau I ka Wai Ola O Hawai'i follows at 2 PM, and at 3:30, traditional Marimba music by Pequeña Marimba Internacional. 

Saturday afternoon singer and violinist Quetzal Guerrero (noon), contemporary Six Nations rocker Shawnee Talbot, aka She KIng (12:30 PM), and the LA fusion band Ozomatli (2 PM) join the roster of performers. Saturday evening at 5 PM, the three groups will present a longer concert as part of the museum's series Indian Summer Showcase. All music and dance performances take place in the air-conditioned Potomac Atrium.

 

Quetzal Guerrero miniShe King mini   

Ozomatli

Clockwise from upper left: Quetzal Guerrero; photo courtesy of the artist. She King; photo courtesy of the artist.Ozomatl; photo copyright 2012 Christian Lantry.


Are you looking for a Friday evening program? The film series Dinner and a Movie offers cuisine from our Zagat-rated Mitsitam Café, available for purchase from 5 to 6:30 PM, followed by the movie Watershed, showing from 7 to 8:30 PM in the museum's Rasmuson Theater. Watershed highlights people who live and work in the Colorado River Basin, including Jeff Ehlert, a fly fishing guide in Rocky Mountain National Park, and Navajo Council member Glojean Todacheene. These people convey their new water ethic by sharing stories that answer the question, How do we balance the competing interests of cities, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, and indigenous communities all with rights to water? 

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The Colorado River from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.


At the heart of the festival each year is the Living Earth Symposium. For 2013, the symposium presents Tribal ecoAmbassadors Saturday July 20, from 2:30 to 4 PM, join us in the Rasmuson Theater to hear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists, tribal college and university professors, and Native students describe how Native communities and individuals are developing innovative and locally relevant solutions to protect the environment and public health. Presenters include EcoAmbassadors from the Navajo Nation and the Tohono O’odham Nation who will address grassroots efforts to reduce carbon on their reservations and provide housing in their local communities.

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ecoAmbassador David Stone and students from Tohono O’odham Community College take a break on a bench made entirely on carbon-negative materials; photo courtesy of the EPA.

The symposium and several other events throughout the weekend will be webcast live on the museum's website. A complete schedule of webcasts from the festival, as well as events on the webcast calendar for later this summer, is available in a separate blog post.

All programs and activities are free and open to the public. As noted above, free timed-entry tickets to the sculpting workshop with Lisan Tiger Blair are avaiable in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center; it might be wise to begin your visit there. Indian Summer Showcase concerts are always very popular and Saturday's promises to be no exception. Seating in the Potomac Atrium is first come, first served. 

We hope to see you here!

—Dennis Zotigh, NMAI

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I like the work of Shawnee SheKing, Lynn Talbot (Mirror me, This is me etc). I was trying to see if there was a connection in her work with Aboriginal music. It would be great to live close enough to visit the Living Earth Festival to see such energy and creativity. Living in Australia makes it difficult. I enjoy Rap and Hip Hop and I found one of Shawnee's creations sung in that genre. That such energy and creative minds are also involved in protecting the environment, not just here but also in other countries makes me have hope for humankind. I enjoyed reading about the activities planned, with a big sigh at not being able to be there..

In reply to my own comment I listened to Shawnee SheKing singing "She is King" (rap type). I hear drumming connections with Shawnee drumming and the Mohawk drums I have found on the Internet and the sounds made by Iriquois water drums. Of course this could be entirely in my own head. I also loved the haunting sounds of the Mohawk flute music from the smoke dance.

The music was AMAZING! Especially Ozomatl. I was lucky enough to see their first show back in 1995. I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore. Working on training my voice so I can do something similar like Ozomatl.

@William have you heard of a native american band called Apu?

I recently watched them whilst they were on tour of the UK the music they create is fantastic!

Many thanks
Karl

I must say - THIS WAS GREAT!
the world is so small, i watched them too on their uk tour!

really amazing and interesting!

Nice work! Keep going!

keep up the good work guys.... amazing....

The music was AMAZING! Especially Ozomatl. I was lucky enough to see their first show back in 1995. I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore. Working on training my voice so I can do something similar like Ozomatl.

I recently watched them whilst they were on tour of the UK the music they create is fantastic!

Many thanks

I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore.

Great guys! Keep on working :)

Amazing work! Keep going

really it is very interesting and amazing.thank you and good luck

good work keep it up.

Thank You for Sharing Valuable Information.i like this blog and this is very informative.

Really it is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

The music was AMAZING! Especially Ozomatl. I was lucky enough to see their first show back in 1995. I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore.