What is the museum’s mission?
The Museum of Indian Culture 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. We accomplish our mission through guided tours, a comprehensive resource center, educational outreach programs, special events, and family-friendly festivals.
The museum’s goals are to:
Educate our community about Native American cultures, especially the Delaware/Lenape, the original people of Pennsylvania, from their earliest history up to the present day.
Provide accurate information about Native American people to researchers and students.
Showcase modern Native American dance, music, and crafts in annual family-friendly festivals presented in the best tradition of non-profit arts and culture organizations.
Discuss Native American perspectives on current issues of interest to our community, our nation, and our planet.
Where is the museum located?
Our physical address:
2825 Fish Hatchery Road
Allentown, PA 18103
We are located in the Little Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, right down the road from Lehigh Valley Hospital between Cedar Crest Boulevard and 24th Street/Oxford Drive.
What is the museum’s history?
The Museum of Indian Culture was founded in 1980 as the Lenni Lenape Historical Society/Museum of Indian Culture. In 2005, the museum legally dropped “Lenni Lenape Historical Society” from its name, reflecting the diversity of our exhibits which focus not only on the Lenape/Delaware but on Native American tribes throughout the western hemisphere. Our founders were a small group of Native American culture and history enthusiasts who wanted to bring a Native American resource center to the Lehigh Valley. We are the oldest exclusively Native American museum in Pennsylvania.
In 2003, the museum underwent a complete administrative change. The new administration focused on improving relations with community organizations, the state of Pennsylvania, the federal government, and federally-recognized American Indian tribes, especially the remaining Delaware/Lenape tribes in Oklahoma and Canada. Today, the museum is a growing resource for Native American research and education, offering guided tours on weekends, outreach programs for school and social groups, popular annual festivals, and craft workshops and lectures. We also participate in community celebrations and County and City anniversary celebrations.
What is the history behind the museum’s headquarters, the 1796 Bieber Homestead?
The museum’s current headquarters is a limestone farmhouse built in 1796 by the Lehigh Valley faction of the Bieber Family, a French-German family who emigrated to America in the early 1700s, to Oley Township. The Biebers bought our current land from the Roth Family. We have a copy of this deed, the Bieber family Bible, and a basic genealogy of the Bieber family in our collection. The Biebers and their descendants owned the house and much of our end of the Parkway until the early 20th century, when title passed to Gen. Harry C. Trexler, who then gave it to the City of Allentown. The City incorporated the land into the Little Lehigh Parkway.
Until the 1970s, the city used the building and its springhouse, which pre-dates the house, for a variety of purposes, including reduced cost housing for city workers and the headquarters for the Allentown Mounted Police. By 1979, the house was in great disrepair and was scheduled for demolition. The Museum’s founders saved the house from demolition, renovating it in return for a very low-cost lease from the City of Allentown.
Today, we lease the building from the City of Allentown and maintain as much of its historic quality as we can. We have some of the Staffordshire pottery, probably owned by the Biebers and found in archaeological testing in the basement, on display in the museum.
Is the Museum a private or public institution? Where does its funding come from?
The Museum is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation registered in the state of Pennsylvania. It is completely independent, meaning it is unaffiliated with any tribe, government, or other institution. Our funding comes from membership dues, fees from museum and event admission, occasional grants from private or government funders, and local businesses that sometimes provide free advertising.
Who runs the museum?
The museum is run by our Board of Directors. The museum is an all-volunteer organization.
Our current Board of Directors:
President – Edna White
Executive Director – Patricia Rivera
Vice President, Operations and Training – Wesley Dunn
Vice President, Educational Programming – Vicky Shenandoah, Oneida Nation
Youth Programs Director - Barry L. Rivera
Interim Treasurer – Patricia Rivera
Secretary – Tavia Minnich
Curator – Lee Hallman
Native American Advisory Board:
Linda Poolaw, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Delaware Tribe, OK
Matthew Clair, Mi’kmaq, Joy TonePahHote, Kiowa Nation
Our volunteers include educators, archaeologists, historians, and individuals with banking and marketing experience.
Does the museum only cover the history of the Lenape/Delaware Indians?
No. Although one of our two exhibit rooms and several of our outreach programs are geared toward Northeastern Woodland tribes like the Delaware, our exhibits and programming cover Native American groups from all over the western hemisphere, including Central and South America.
What is the museum’s relationship to the modern Lenape/Delaware groups?
The museum is not affiliated in any way with any other organization, including any federally-recognized tribe or non-recognized claimant group. We encourage anyone wanting to know more about Delaware language and culture from the Delaware themselves to visit the website of the federally-recognized Delaware tribes listed below:
Delaware Nation, Anadarko, OK: www.delawarenation.com
Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, OK: www.delawaretribe.org
Delaware Nation at Moraviantown: www.delawarenation.on.ca
Is the museum appropriate for children?
Yes, the museum is appropriate for children ages five and up. All of our tours are guided, and our exhibits are very touch-friendly and interactive. Children can try gourd rattles, a soft-wood fire-starting kit, a pump drill, and even a small atlatl (spear-thrower). All of our annual festivals and many of our special events are also family-friendly and include children’s activities. At our Roasting Ears of Corn Festival in August, we have an entire area dedicated to children’s crafts and face-painting.
How big is the museum’s collection and what kinds of objects are in it?
The museum’s collection includes about 4,000 objects, including a large archaeological rockshelter collection, the Broomall Rockshelter Collection, with over 1,000 sherds of pre-historic pottery. The collection is very diverse and includes pre-historic and historic artifacts and modern Native American arts and crafts. The museum does not curate human remains or ceremonial objects of any kind.
How does the Museum obtain objects for its collection?
The museum obtains its collections primarily through private donations from individual artifact and art collectors and bequests. One large collection came from a small Pennsylvania library, and another from a Philadelphia-based archaeologist who had received the pieces from an elderly artifact collector’s family. We also receive donations from our festival vendors. We occasionally purchase modern Native American-made art, textiles, statuary, and jewelry if we believe they will add educational value to an exhibit or to our collections in general.
Why are some objects not on exhibition?
Some objects are not on exhibit because we are a small museum with limited exhibit space. As a result, not everything will be out at one time. Additionally, some objects, like textiles, fade or become damaged by the stresses of permanent exhibition and must rest. However, the museum does rotate exhibits. Almost everything the museum owns has been on display at some time within the past decade, and will likely rotate into exhibition again.
Does the museum ever sell its artifacts and collections?
The museum’s permanent collection is held in the public trust. The collections are valuable because of their cultural, historical, aesthetic, and educational properties and are not considered financial assets. The Museum of Indian Culture does not sell its collections to pay general operating costs or use its collections as collateral for loans.
Only the museum’s Board of Directors has the authority to approve the deaccession (removal) of objects from the collection for specific practical and mission-specific reasons as laid out in the museum’s Collections Management Policy (pending). If the Board approves the sale, by public auction, of deaccessioned objects, the proceeds from such a sale may go only toward new collections acquisition or collections care, as specified in the Code of Ethics for Museums of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). See http://www.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/code-of-ethics
Does the museum offer appraisals of Native American artifacts or art collections?
For legal reasons, museum staff does not offer verbal appraisals of artifacts or collections while acting in an official capacity. Anyone looking for an appraiser should consult the website of the Appraisers Association of America at www.appraisersassociation.org, which includes a “Find an Appraiser” section on its homepage. You can sort by object type and location of appraiser. Museum staff cannot, in an official capacity, recommend an appraiser.
How can I donate an artifact to the Museum?
The museum considers all donation offers from the public. Anyone wishing to donate can call or email the museum. A representative will contact you and discuss what you have, where it comes from, what you know about it, and other basic information. The representative will likely ask you to send pictures and, ideally, bring the object to the museum where the curator will evaluate it and determine how well it would fit into our collection or an upcoming exhibit.
When considering donations, we consider: the object’s provenience, history, and context; the object’s quality and aesthetic value; our existing collections and our ability to care for the objects; and how well the object would fit into upcoming exhibits at the museum. If we decide to accept the object(\(\(\(s), we will ask you to fill out a gift agreement, which permanently transfers ownership of the objects to the museum.
Is my artifact donation tax deductible?
Yes. All donations to non-profit organizations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law. Museum staff cannot appraise objects for tax purposes, nor can museum staff recommend an appraiser.
Do the museum lend out objects from its collections?
Yes. The museum has loaned artifacts to our local library, schools, and historical societies. We do not loan artifacts to individuals. All loans are for a specified period of time. Organizations interested in borrowing the museum’s collections should contact us at or call us at 610-797-2121.
Does the museum have a research library?
Yes. We have a 3,000-book library that is one of the largest Native-themed libraries in the Commonwealth, and it is completely open to researchers. You can walk in during our regular hours or call and make an appointment during the week. We will set you up with a table and chair for as long as you need. We do not loan our books out to the public.
Can I use pictures of your objects for research or a school project?
We ask anyone using pictures of our artifacts to ask permission before publishing them for any reason. We will usually give permission for the photo to be used for free as long as the museum is mentioned in the photo credit. There is no flash photography allowed in the museum, but non-flash photography is permitted.
Can I visit the museum's gift shop without paying museum admission?
Yes, any time during our regular hours.
What are some common misperceptions about the museum?
The Museum of Indian Culture is NOT:
A Native American tribe or Delaware/Lenape claimant group. There are no federally or state recognized American Indian tribes in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, and all of the remaining Delaware/Lenape tribes are based outside of Oklahoma and Canada.
A humanitarian organization. The Museum hosts some humanitarian programs, such as our Three Sisters Harvest food bank, but our primary mission is history and cultural heritage.
A spiritual or religious organization. Nobody at the Museum performs Native American ceremonies or rituals.
A genealogical research center. The Museum does not employ staff dedicated to tracing specific family histories or Native American ancestry claims.
A political advocacy organization. The Museum does not support candidates or political parties