Volunteer Spotlight: Beth Kleiman

Beth Kleiman has been a volunteer at the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York city for 15 years. She shares some of her more memorable experiences.


Building exterior with skyscrapers in background

The National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. (Photo by David Sundberg 2016)

I became a member of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in 1994, when it opened in New York City. I am thrilled to be able to give something back to my community and also be a part of an organization that works so hard to share such important messages about Indigenous peoples. Over the past 15 years, I have had many very memorable, wonderful experiences working in Visitor Services, greeting guests on Sunday mornings at the museum. I love to ask people where they are visiting from, and get a sense of what they are looking to see at the museum and in New York.  I find that welcoming people with a warm smile always brings out the best in them.

One of my standout encounters occurred back in spring of 2004, when I greeted a woman from Budapest, Hungary, who was with a gentleman friend with whom she was staying in New York. I told her I was planning to visit Hungary the following month, and she said she would be happy to show me around when I got there. I offered to give her and her friend a personal tour of the American Stock Exchange, where I was working at the time. When I landed in Budapest, a couple of days before my group tour was scheduled to commence, Judit and her daughter met me at the airport, took me to lunch, then spent the next couple of days with me sightseeing in and around the city.  Judit has been back to New York City several times since then, and we always get together for a meal and a cultural event.

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is truly a part of me, and I don’t hesitate to rave about it to whomever will listen.  When walking by the building at Bowling Green, I have approached people (usually with kids in tow) to tell them they shouldn’t miss it.  And I talk the museum up any chance I get—to tourists on the subway, at cocktail parties, when I’m asked for directions on the streets of lower Manhattan (which is a frequent occurrence.) Finally, I want to mention the wonderful community of fellow volunteers who I have come to know as a second family. I particularly love attending Volunteer events, when I get to schmooze with all the fine folks who I do not normally get to work with at the museum.

Kleiman holding pin poses in rotunda

Beth Kleiman with the 15-year pin she received for years of service as a colunteer at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Posted: 30 July 2018
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