George Gustav Heye and the National Museum of the American Indian - Collecting the Collector


  • Andrea Zittlau



On September 21, 2004 the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) opened its doors to the public. This essay will look at the institution's history, especially its collector, George Gustav Heye, and his representation inside the museum walls. Oscillating between honored patron and greedy businessman, the labels and objects explore his personality but conceal his relationship to the cultures he collected that remained extraordinarily superficial. The problem will be illustrated by using museum labels to explore their implicit rhetoric.

Author Biography

Andrea Zittlau

Andrea Zittlau studied German, English, and American studies at the University of Rostock and the University of Aberdeen. She received an M.A. in 2005 and has been working since then as a research assistant and lecturer at the department of North American Cultural Studies at the University of Rostock. Since 2006 she additionally coordinates the Graduate College "Cultural Encounters and Discourses of Scholarship" also at the University of Rostock.Currently, she is working on her PhD thesis on the representation of cultures in museums. Her research interests include museums, world fairs and other forms of exhibition, as well as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Jewish literature and Trauma Theory.


How to Cite

Zittlau, Andrea. “George Gustav Heye and the National Museum of the American Indian - Collecting the Collector”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 8, Mar. 2012, doi:10.5283/copas.100.