Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

African-American Museum

Source: The Art Newspaper.

Julia Halperin, President Obama to ring in grand opening of Smithsonian’s African-American museum, The Art Newspaper, 23 September 2016

Tens of thousands expected at the weekend festival celebrating the newest addition on the National Mall, including performances by the Roots and Public Enemy, dance, spoken word and a southern BBQ

Thousands of people are expected to line Constitution Avenue to celebrate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) tomorrow, 24 September, in Washington, DC. Free tickets to the museum’s opening weekend—all 28,500 of them—sold out in less than an hour. President Obama is due to inaugurate the museum by ringing a bell on loan from the First Baptist Church in Virginia, which was founded by slaves and free black people in 1776.

NMAAHC is the first new museum built by the Smithsonian Institution in a more than a decade and the first museum dedicated to African-American history on the National Mall. The bell-ringing is just one part of a three-day festival to celebrate the grand opening, which includes music by the Roots and Public Enemy, dance and spoken word performances and southern BBQ.

This citywide party could not have been more difficult to imagine when Lonnie Bunch, the director of NMAAHC, arrived for his first day on the job in 2005. At the time, the institution had no site, no building and no collection. What a difference 11 years makes. The $540m David Adjaye-designed museum, next door to the Washington Monument, now houses a collection of more than 34,000 objects that tell the story of African-American people from the beginnings of the slave trade in the 15th century to the present.

As its cumbersome name might suggest, NMAAHC is in fact two institutions rolled into one: a history museum and a culture museum. Downstairs, a sweeping spiral staircase guides visitors through the darkest chapters of US history. (To adhere to strict height regulations for buildings on the National Mall, around 60% of the 400,000 sq. ft museum is underground.) Upstairs, culture galleries trace the influence of African-Americans on all aspects of US life, from sport to the arts.

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