NMAAHC Prepares to Open

National Museum of African American History and Culture prepares to open in Washington, DC

Wallpaper, Sept. 15, 2016

In advance of its official opening on 24 September, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC, held a special preview day for the press on 14 September. For most of the several hundred attendees, it was the first chance to look inside the 400,000-sq-ft building, designed by a consortium of firms helmed by David Adjaye and Philip Freelon.

Fulfilling an idea that dates back to the early 1900s, but has met political opposition along the way, the museum honors the achievements of African Americans while telling the ‘unvarnished truth’, in the phrasing of one curator, about their oppression. The new museum was given the last buildable spot on the National Mall, Washington’s monumental core.

At the preview, David Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian, and Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s director, addressed a full-to-capacity house in the Oprah Winfrey Theater (the TV personality was a major donor). ‘We felt it was crucial to craft a museum that would help America remember and confront its tortured racial past,’ Bunch said. ‘But, it also had to find the joy, the hope, the resiliency, the spirituality, that was embedded in this community. The goal was to find that tension.’

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Photograph by Alan Karchmer