What comes to your mind when someone mentions a museum? Most likely you’ve thought of a place with ancient artifacts, history, treasure, knowledge, art and more. So, it should come as no surprise that tourists travel thousands of miles to visit such historic museums the world over, and the Smithsonian is no exception. We are fortunate to have many of these amazing museums right in our own back yard which makes it more important that we take advantage of these amazing locations and the learning and cultural opportunities they provide.
Unless we take time to learn, we cannot fully appreciate our roots. As the Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director of the NMAAHC said, “The African-American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American.” For a deeper understanding, let’s discuss seven reasons people need to visit the iconic NMAAHC in Washington D.C
1. The Building – The museum structure is a physical representation of the many victories the African-American community has achieved. The museum was carefully crafted as a tribute to the enslaved black craftsmen of the past. The architects borrowed from Yoruba design, the exterior is covered in metal screens called ‘Corona’ that are made of colored bronze and aluminum panels.
2. Information – You get to see and read about the sacrifices and struggles of our forefathers, and the victories and triumphs our community has achieved on their shoulders, and most importantly, you are learning what it means to be an African-American. The building addresses almost the entirety of the African-American experience, weaving slavery, freedom, the civil rights movement, arts, economics, politics, entertainment, athletics and much more.
3. Values – You get to share and appreciate the expression of important universal values like spirituality, hope, optimism, and resilience as depicted in African-American history and culture. You will also get in-depth knowledge of our community’s beliefs, fears, and most importantly who we are.
4. Opportunities – Going to the museum gives you the opportunity to marvel at the interactive exhibitions and satisfy the curiosity about little known parts of African-American history. The museum is rich in history and artifacts that are worth exploring. If you are a historian, researcher or a simply a curious onlooker, the building holds the answers and goes into great detail.
5. Understanding – You will begin to deeply understand how our stories, African-American stories are influenced and shaped by history and cultures from all over the world and in turn how the African-American experience has had significance in today’s global way of living other far-reaching impacts.
6. Culture – The museum serves as the single largest repository of African-American culture and history. To achieve this goal, the museum collaborated with other museums and historical institutions, and individuals to help preserve the history and culture of the African-Americans.
7. The Future – To be able to look forward, plan and anticipate what the future holds for all of us, you need to understand your past (and present). For example, look at the #BlackLivesMatter movement. For as much progress as we have made from the dark times of enslavement in America, we are still not seen as societal equals and there is still much that needs to be done. We still need to fight against false societal norms and stereotypes and this museum is an important step on that path. Understanding our history helps mold the future. Furthermore fighting with facts clears the path to equal rights.
In conclusion, the NMAAHC is telling America’s story because of Black History and Culture and American History and Culture. The variety of artifacts and information showcases the diversity of America and appreciates black history and black contribution. When you walk into the museum, you are experiencing raw history first hand. Only then can you fully understand who you are, where you’ve been, and what has been endured to be where we are today and where we can go tomorrow.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.