NMAI’s ImagiNATIONS Activity Center Reignites Native American Innovation

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has officially opened the ImagiNATIONS Activity Center with hopes of explaining the importance of Native innovators and their influence on the Americas through a series of age-appropriate stations. Roto was hired to complete the design and fabrication of this 1,800 sq. ft. permanent bilingual exhibition, targeted for kids and families opened in the museum’s New York City branch as part of an approximately $9 million renovation – the museum’s largest design undertaking since its founding in 1994. While the museum has an ImagiNATIONS center in its Washington building, this new center goes in an entirely new direction with Roto’s designs focusing on creating fulfilling and robust interactivity to withstand New York’s sizable visitor traffic. The center demonstrates the different aspects of native knowledge and how their innovations have made an impression on modern-day math, engineering and science. The physics section includes a mechanized kayak where children try to stay upright in a simulation imitating rough waters, and the architecture section offers a small model igloo designed for children to assemble using Inuit techniques. The center also demonstrates the impression of Native technology and engineering with an installation challenging kids to build a bridge strong enough to withstand an “earthquake” next to the Peruvian-built string suspension bridge.

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