U.S. Custom House & The National Museum of the American Indian

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I’ve gone past the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at Bowling Green so many times and I didn’t realize until recently that it houses The National Museum of the American Indian. I just remember it as being in one of the Ghostbusters movies.


With seven floors, only the bottom two levels are used for the museum and the rest are offices for the Army, the Navy and the Bankruptcy Court. Remember this as you enter this federal building and you go through a security checkpoint.


I visited the museum on Tuesday afternoon and went on two separate guided tours. One was for the building itself, and the other was a tour inside the museum. The building tour, which starts at 1PM, lasts about an hour and gives you access to the Collector’s office, an area that’s roped off to the public. Led by Bob, it was just me and another woman so it was very much like a private tour. Since I didn’t know anything about the Custom House, I found it fascinating.


Since the building was where all international duty collection took place and with its location by the water, there are a ton of nautical themes to be found all over. You can spot Poseidon, dolphins, shells and ships if you look for them.


The Collector’s office is a room is quite opulant. Again, nautical motifs are everywhere. Now, this room is used for special events.


There’s Poseidon looking serious.

Ask to see the closets that are hiding out in the open when you’re there.


Before the building was fully restored in 1994, it was left abandoned for years and was to be demolished. On the tour, we got a quick look at how the building was before the restoration.


After the building tour, I wandered through The National Museum of the American Indian. There are three exhibitions, one of which is the Infinity of Nations, their Permanent Collection. The exhibition tour is at 3PM and I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a highlights tour. Instead, it’s more of an in-depth look at a few pieces in the Permanent Collection. Led by Loretta, her tour was about masks and she goes over five selected pieces. This tour lasts an hour.

There isn’t a guided highlights tour, however, they offer free audioguides that covers the highlights of all their current exhibitions. (Make sure you bring ID if you want to use the audioguide.) Or, you can download the Infinity of Nations app.

Note: Tours are given daily and there are more than the two I went on. See times and schedule.

INFO: U.S. Custom House & The National Museum of the American Indian | One Bowling Green | New York, NY 10004| 212.514.3700

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