A look in to the Lehigh Valley’s Past: Museum celebrates Native American culture, history

From our perch on College Hill, we as a campus community can often feel isolated, a world unto itself. But there is a world outside campus. There are many opportunities for excursions off the hill, to get out into the Lehigh Valley and beyond, to experience all this region has to offer.

Evidence shows that humans first populated Pennsylvania as far back as 10,000 years ago. This Thanksgiving break, take some time to learn about the region’s vast history.

The Museum of Indian Culture in Allentown is Pennsylvania’s oldest museum dedicated to Native American history and heritage. Their website notes the museum is a “non-profit, educational organization dedicated to presenting, preserving, and perpetuating the history and cultural heritage of the Northeastern Woodland Indians and other American Indian tribes.”

The museum focuses primarily on the Delaware/Lenape people that were the original inhabitants of the Lehigh Valley area, but also showcases a diverse range of exhibits on Native Americans across the continent.

Founded in 1980, the museum was originally known as the “Lenni Lenape Historical Society/Museum of Indian Culture.” It dropped the first part of its name in 2005 and has been the “Museum of Indian Culture” ever since.

The museum is home to the largest research library of Native American resources in the state, totaling in the neighborhood of 3,000 volumes.

A variety of tours, educational resources and festivals are exhibited at the museum to highlight the history and culture of Native American from as far back as 3,000 years ago. The museum also deals greatly with modern Native Americans, showcasing modern dance, music and crafts. The exhibits are meant to encourage discussion of “Native American perspectives on current issues of interest to our community, our nation and our planet,” according to its website.

All tours are guided and exhibits are “touch-friendly.” Museum-goers can interact with exhibited tools and instruments of Native American groups. While the museum is small, it is home to a great many artifacts and resources, not all of which can be exhibited at any one time for preservation reasons as well as concerns over limited space.

The museum is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and children ages 12-17. Children under 12 enter free.

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