How many times have you visited an American History museum only to leave wanting to know more about the complete African-American experience?
Indeed, museums celebrating Black History have sprung up across the nation in recent years, but your curiosity will be sated when one of the largest opens its doors in Washington, D.C. on September 24, 2016.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the 19th and newest Smithsonian museum, composes 400,000-square-feet and stands five stories tall. Here are four reasons to visit the museum:
1. This is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.
The museum will open with eleven inaugural exhibitions that “will focus on the broader themes of history, culture and community intended to illustrate the major periods of African American history while telling an ‘unvarnished truth,’” according to The Center For Black Equity. These exhibitions will feature some of the 36,000 artifacts collected by the institution thus far, including an 1874 log house built and inhabited by free slaves in Poolesville, Maryland.
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum and research complex in the world. The Smithsonian has built a legacy of telling deep, culturally rich stories that demonstrate the beauty of history in our lives. The National Museum of African American History and Culture will follow this tradition, showcasing African diasporic histories and traditions, as well as the powerful stories of Black Americans who have, and continue to, transform America.
2. This state-of-the-art, LEED-certified museum will be a symbol of hope, resilience, reconciliation.
Even before visitors enter the museum, they receive a history lesson based on its location.
The building is an architectural wonder, a collaboration of four design firms that formed Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, including David Adjaye, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat.
The design and location are reflective of the African American experience. The building’s architectural elements blend African roots with influences of the African Diaspora in the American South and Caribbean. Throughout the museum, visitors will experience views of Washington, D.C., that correspond with key moments in our nation’s history: the White House, which made history in 2008 with the election of the nation’s first Black president; the Lincoln Memorial, where the March on Washington culminated in 1963; as well as the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol.
3. You will experience history like never before.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture will bring history to life in a whole new – and life-size – way. The museum’s inaugural exhibitions will include iconic objects such as a Tuskegee airplane, Michael Jackson’s fedora, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, and a segregated rail car.
Many visitors are also excited to see George Clinton’s famed Mothership in the museum. The 1,200-pound aluminum stage prop will be located in the museum’s Musical Crossroads exhibition, which will provide a chronology of African American music from its beginnings through the present.
4. You will learn unique stories that expand your understanding of what it means to be an American.
The exhibitions will use powerful stories from national as well as local narratives to illustrate the African American experience, including that of Frances M. Albrier, who in 1942 challenged racial and gender barriers in wartime Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Virginia; Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, an African-American musical prodigy who died in 1908; and Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a White civil rights activist and Freedom Rider from Arlington, Virginia, and museum donor.
Since its inception in 2003, NMAAHC has been collecting items to tell the story of America through the African American lens. The stories will be told using a variety of artifacts that showcase the diversity of America, demonstrating that no matter the color of our skin, we all are part of the melting pot we call the United States of America. “This Museum will tell the American story through the lens of African American history and culture. This is America’s Story and this museum is for all Americans,” remarked Founding Director Lonnie G. Bunch, III.
Find out more about the National Museum of African American History and Culture by checking out their website.
PHOTO CREDIT: Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © 1965 Spider Martin, Gift of Love to the planet, Gift of Paxton and Rachel Baker