African American Museums
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened officially on September 24, 2016 with a dedication ceremony that culminated in President Barack Obama, First lady Michelle Obama, and Ruth Bonner—daughter-of a former slave and her granddaughter ringing the historic Freedom Bell, on loan from the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Va. Proposals for a national museum to honor African American history date back to 1915, and in 2003 The National Museum of African American History and Culture was finally established by an Act of Congress sponsored by John Lewis. The organization began curating exhibitions in collaboration with other museums in 2007, and occupied a gallery in the National Museum of American History from 2012. The permanent home of the museum, designed by Tanzanian-born architect David Adjaye, stands out from the limestone and marble buildings on the National Mall with a metal edifice was designed to reflect Yoruban architecture and also features a filigree pattern based on ironwork made by enslaved craftsmen in New Orleans and Charleston.
The museum aims to explore the many facets of African American experience throughout history, and offer a nuanced lens through which to view American history. Its collection consists of more than 35,000 artifacts ranging from items tied to well—known figures—such as a hymnal owned by Harriet Tubman—to pieces that illustrate the everyday lives of ordinary people. According to Director Lonnie Bunch: "I think the museum needs to be a place that finds the right tension between moments of pain and stories of resiliency and uplift. There will be moments where visitors could cry as they ponder the pains of the past, but they will also find much of the joy and hope that have been a cornerstone of the African-American experience."