The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture formally opened its doors on Saturday, September 24. Located on the National Mall across from the Washington Monument, the museum displays more than 3,000 artifacts in twelve inaugural exhibitions.
The outer façade of the five story building is a distinguished gold lattice that immediately attracts the eye. What is unseen, is the underground space of the museum that sprawls downward five stories, making it the deepest museum within the Smithsonian collection. A ground level, water fountain at the north and south entrances welcome visitors, along with a permanent stage where the opening ceremony and dedication occurred on Saturday.
The celebration was an epic event and included performances from Stevie Wonder and Patti Labelle and featured an array of speakers from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, to former President George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, and President Barack Obama. Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the museum, spoke and gave accolades to President Bush for signing the museum into law thirteen years ago. President Obama along with the Bonner family (descendants of Elijah B. Odom a slave that obtained freedom by fleeing his owner) officially opened the museum by ringing the 136 year old ‘Freedom Bell’ from the First Baptist Church which was brought to Washington, D.C. from Williamsburg, Virginia.
After the ceremony, guests were allowed to enter the building where museum attendants were present to guide them down into the basement to begin their experience with the “History” exhibit. There, viewers traveled back in time 400 years ago to begin the “Journey of a People” at slavery. As viewers ascend each floor, they observe exhibitions on the Civil War Era, Civil Rights Era, Television Era and then end their experience with Obama’s Presidency.
“It was a privilege to be invited to the dedication ceremony, and to have the first opportunity to walk through the museum and see the truth of our nation in the journey of African Americans to achieve equality. It was an emotional experience for me, and for many of those around me,” shared Jordan Killebrew, Communications Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation.
The museum is open to the public, but due to the high level of interest a Timed Pass system has been implemented. Timed Passes for the general public and nonprofit organizations are free of charge, and will be available online starting in January 2017. A limited number of passes will be available at the museum after September 26. More information is available here.
Special thanks to Lonnie, Maria, Katy, Sarah, & Harper for the invitation. This article is published at SBFoundation.org.