Going inside the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Published: Sep. 14, 2016 at 11:07 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2016 at 11:18 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWBT) - In just over a week, over 33,000 artifacts and pieces of African American history will be on display for thousands to see at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in our nation's capital.

The NMAAHC will be dedicated on Saturday Sept. 24 on the museum's grounds on the National Mall in Washington, DC. and features an extensive collection detailing "the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped to shape this nation."

Officials at the museum said they are building a collection that illustrates the major periods of African American history, beginning with the origins in Africa and continuing through slavery, reconstruction, the civil rights era, the Harlem Renaissance and into the 21st century.

Highlights include the following:

  • Harriet Tubman collection, including her hymnal (c. 1876); lace shawl (c. 1897), given to her by Queen Victoria; and family photographs from her funeral
  • Jim Crow Railroad car (c. 1920)
  • Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac convertible (c. 1973)
  • Black Fashion Museum Collection (approximately 1,000 items)
  • Tuskegee Airmen Trainer Plane, an open-cockpit PT-13 Stearman (c. 1942), used to prepare Tuskegee Airmen for World War II combat duty
  • Works of art by Charles Alston, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Lorna Simpson, Romare Bearden, Archibald John Motley Jr., Henry O. Tanner and Frederick C. Flemister
  • Emmett Till’s casket (c. 1955)—the glass-topped coffin that held the body of 14-year-old Emmett Till whose murder in Mississippi helped galvanize the civil rights movement
  • Slave cabin from Edisto Island, S.C. (c. 1800–1850)

The 400,000-square foot museum's first 12 inaugural exhibitions will focus on three broad themes, history, culture and community.

"The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American," remarked Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the NMAAHC.

In addition to the tens of thousands of individual pieces, the NMAAHC also houses an education and technology center, a café, a museum store, and the Oprah Winfrey Theater, which is a 350-seat theater that the Smithsonian Institute says will, "be a forum in the nation's capital for performers, artists, educators, scholars, authors, musicians, filmmakers and opinion leaders."

Winfrey has donated $13 million to the museum and has served as a member of the museum's advisory council since 2004.

Large crowds are expected for the Saturday Sept. 24 grand opening of the museum, with organizers saying that they are implementing Timed Passes so they accommodate as many visitors as possible.

To learn more about the NMAAHC and it's upcoming grand opening, click here.

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