The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has been under construction since February 2012, and this Saturday, it will open its doors for the first time. In order to step into the new Smithsonian museum, visitors will need timed passes for the first few weeks. For those who can’t wait, Curbed has compiled photos that venture inside the space, from its glass beads to its statues to its larger-than-life murals.
New Richard Hunt sculpture hanging in entrance hall of @NMAAHC. pic.twitter.com/CkCRT9ZgtM— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) September 14, 2016
1st object in @NMAAHC's collection: Ecuadorian boat seat. How it got here: https://t.co/VjD0hiMO6R #APeoplesJourney pic.twitter.com/gILKtRwpIR— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 14, 2016
Glass beads and metal bands used by Europeans in African slave trade, from the 15th century. @NMAAHC pic.twitter.com/iepxVRPmqr— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) September 14, 2016
The displays about the slave trade at @NMAAHC all end with the human toll and a story about rebellion. pic.twitter.com/4T1M8Xwkh7— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) September 14, 2016
The tour is chronological, starting from below ground to the uppermost floor. On the lowest floor, the museum begins its story with the origins of the Atlantic slave trade. On the below-grade levels, there are metal bands, European colonialists’ rifles, and images of slave ships.
Mural painted on plywood in Resurrection City, 1968 tent city & demonstration on the National Mall. #APeoplesJourney pic.twitter.com/IL7EoHg5oh— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 14, 2016
An entire catalog of people for sale in Louisiana, at @NMAAHC. pic.twitter.com/pHm9chs9hs— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) September 14, 2016
Slave auction notice from Missouri, 1853. pic.twitter.com/MD85ivctfZ— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) September 14, 2016
Slave shackles. Behind them, text from the Declaration of Independence. #APeoplesJourney pic.twitter.com/uYM18inFMg— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 14, 2016
Washingtonian reported that there is one room on this floor that displays the 1794 wreckage of a Portuguese ship that sank off the coast of South Africa. The wreckage is believed to have killed more than half the estimated 400 slaves on board. Other artifacts found in the underground spaces include a Jim Crow-era Southern Railway car and an Angola prison guard tower, according to Architect Magazine.
During my pre-opening tour of the @NMAAHC, Timothy Anne Burnside pulled me away from the group and led me to view this exhibit. It is a large collection of African Americans who won the National Medal of Honor. In every American war, blacks served and often made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We owe them and all brave American's who fought for our freedoms the deepest respect, honor and gratitude. I am so grateful for how this Museum pays tribute to the blacks in the US Armed Forces and how they tell their stories for all of our benefit. When Timothy brought me to this area and I began to read the captions, I found myself fighting back tears and feeling pride and gratitude as well as grief and sadness for those who - while not being viewed as equal citizens by their country and facing the despicable realities of hate and bigotry - made such incredible sacrifices for and contributions to America. Here is one of the captions featured in my photo: "Landsman John Henry Lawson served aboard the USS Hartford. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on August 5, 1864, against Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Despite being injured by an enemy shell explosion, Lawson composed himself, refused medical attention, and "promptly returned to his station and...steadfastly continued his duties throughout the remainder of the action."" #APeoplesJourney #NMAAHC
When I toured the @nmaahc, I was with a great group of Instagram artists. They were kind and gracious and even shared with me many of their pictures. Seeing their reactions to this amazing museum made the experience even more special. Here is a repost of one of their works: @mica4life with @repostapp ・・・ Senator @CoryBooker looks at an interactive display today at @nmaahc. I was struck by how kind the Senator was today, as he took in each exhibit with genuine interest and stopped along the way to talk to the construction workers still working on perfecting this amazing gem within the Smithsonian Institution. #APeoplesJourney
Here is another picture from one of the Instagram artists I toured the @nmaahc with. So grateful he captured this picture which gives a sense of scale to the under ground portion of the museum. The quote I was taking a picture of is: "The way to right wrongs is to trim the light of truth upon them." Ida B. Wells. Thank you @masterwilliams. ・・・ Senator @corybooker getting his shot today during our tour at @nmaahc. Thanks for having me @instagram! • #nmaahc #apeoplesjourney
Smith, Carlos, and Norman at @NMAAHC. pic.twitter.com/NiIwcUPDxS— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) September 14, 2016
The floors that are above ground feature a broad range of subjects, including sports, visual and performing arts, business, and education. On the third floor, where the sports exhibit is, there are images of celebrities like Michael Jordan as well as Serena and Venus Williams. There is also a small theater with three rows of stadium seats for visitors to see a short film about baseball.
On the fourth floor, there is an exhibit about fashion with images of black designers and clothing worn by Rosa Parks and Carlotta Walls.
1st-day outfit of Carlotta Walls, of the Little Rock Nine, now @NMAAHC https://t.co/n9Bz4Van2a #APeoplesJourney pic.twitter.com/x2sk12dEDf— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 20, 2016
Hats from Mae's Millinery Shop, started in 1940 and open until 1997. #APeoplesJourney pic.twitter.com/JMNkemYH9c— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 14, 2016
On the top floor, visitors will find artifacts from musicians like the Jackson family, Chuck Berry, Prince, and the Dixie Hummingbirds gospel group. Washingtonian reported that the chronological tour ends with videos from President Obama‘s first election.
Marion Anderson, Cab Calloway & so many more in Musical Crossroads. Hear this space come alive #APeoplesJourney pic.twitter.com/vGp8Gr6DJH— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) September 14, 2016
Throughout the museum, visitors will be able to find booths where they can record their own stories. The Smithsonian will collect these audio files and later display them online or in future exhibitions.