Smithsonian Offers Sneak Peek of Museum of African-American History

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

WASHINGTON MAY 10: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture sits near the Washington Monument on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, in Washington, DC. The Museum will open to the public September 24 of this year, 2016. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Source: Time

By Maya Rhodan

On the lowest level of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open this September, there is a series of inscriptions on a sprawling far wall. It’s known as the Founding Wall, meant to introduce visitors to the major themes that inform the space: freedom, democracy, and America’s uphill journey to ensure both for all of its citizens.

The quotes will usher visitors along in a very deliberate way; starting with the Declaration of Independence and ending with a quote by journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells. “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

In a way the museum itself, a building a decade in the making that has been a hope for many for nearly 100 years, is hoping to be that light. For proof, look no further than the architecture. About 60% of the building is below ground level, but every level has access to natural light. An skylight allows visitors on the underground floor to get a glimpse of what’s above. Floor-to-ceiling windows wrap the buildings ground floor, offering a panoramic view of the National Mall.

The top floor rests at the center of the building’s “corona,” the three-tiered metal outer layer that puts a modern twist on southern ironwork. There, massive windows partially covered by the metalwork offer a full view of some of Washington’s most noteworthy buildings and monuments. Visitors have to look through the building’s frame in order to see the rest of Washington.

“This museum will reveal American history through the lens of the African-American experience. That’s literally and figuratively” said Philip Freelon, a lead architect on the project.

On Thursday, the Smithsonian Institution opened its doors to a smattering of journalists, including TIME, for a sneak peek at the space. The museum is steps away from the Washington Monument, the towering obelisk built in commemoration of the nation’s first president, who also owned slaves. That dichotomy is not lost in the museum, especially not on the subterranean floor where the tour began.

The building is half-empty now, with hanging wires, dust, empty display cases and wooden crates where artifacts will soon rest. There are 11 historical galleries in the building, an auditorium named after Oprah Winfrey, a cafeteria, and a series of cultural galleries on the top floor.

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Categories: America, The Muslim Times, USA

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