The African American Museum Of History And Culture – WASHINGTON — On the last day of summer in 1963, 200,000 Americans turned the Washington Monument into a compass for a new direction in history, upward and forward as they gathered at its base and then walked a mile or more to hear the Reverend e -r Sermon Martin Luther King Jr. Dream about Racism and Change – Really Sing.
On an early fall day this Saturday, just yards from the monument, the compass itself will be on full display, symbolically, when the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens to the public. To paraphrase the preacher: It’s finally here, finally. And it is more than just impressive. It’s data-packed, engaging, mood-changing that you need to see.
The African American Museum Of History And Culture
Walk the halls of the Smithsonian’s newest museum before the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens next week. 13 years in the making, it seeks to describe the pain and pride of the black experience in America.
Photos: Inside The National Museum Of African American History And Culture
Rising over three low levels with an inverted pyramid, the building occupies the last undeveloped museum site on the National Mall. Designed by Tanzanian-born British architect David Adjaye, its design is unlike any other. They are of white or brown stone or concrete; It is covered with metal panels and is a rich black brown color. Other museums reflect the light; It swallows it, making it appear around the silhouette rather than the volume, despite its size, discretion and withdrawal.
This may not be the expected effect. The original plan was to cast bronze front panels pierced with ornate designs. When this turned out to be too expensive, painted aluminum was substituted, losing its reflective shine. In the afternoon sunlight, the building looks rusted and slightly battered, like a giant magnet with a metal filing.
Multiple views are rewarded. Most of the mall’s museums are small blocks rooted in the neoclassical tradition: eternal grandeur and stability are their messages, and you won’t look at them twice. The new museum changes shape with each encounter, creating with visual deception and relying on the dynamics of culture, contingent, worth seeing.
Costumes from 1970s television shows include a suit worn by George Jefferson in the sitcom The Jeffersons. Credit… Lexi Swall for The New York Times
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Importantly, there are also important transatlantic references. The three-tiered silhouette and the deep porch with a curved roof on the side facing the Mall draw on elements of African architecture and sculpture. (However, the museum’s insistence that the building is in the shape of a Yoruba crown is off base. The motif derives largely from the stepped capitals of the decorative porch pillars carved for -Yoruba courtyards.) The filigree of the front panels is inspired by the . From an African-American grill in South Carolina and Louisiana that has West African roots. (An open cross made by the great 19th-century Southern craftsman Solomon Williams to mark the grave of his wife, Lyde, is part of an early collection showing how beautiful such work can be.)
All these hints can be subtle, subtle and tactfully vague. Reiss is one of those holding back plans for the partially government-funded museum, which have been stalled in Congress for decades. As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum collected $540 million, $270 million private and the rest in federal funds. Some politicians argue that it appeals to a narrow and limited audience. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, a staunch opponent, said approving an African-American museum would only open the floodgates for demands from other groups.
Given the opposition, it is easy to see why the museum’s founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, did much to emphasize the museum’s Americanness. The emphasis is clear on the organization’s website (nmaahc.org), where among the four “pillars on which NMAAHC stands,” one is “exploring what it means to be American and sharing American values such as resilience , optimism.and spirituality as reflected in African American history and culture.
An open cross made by 19th century southern ironworker Solomon Williams to mark the grave of his wife Lyde. Credit… Lexi Swall for The New York Times
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This is an acceptable statement. But it’s pretty close to the feel-good talk of the Smithsonian. Also, empty circles for many during the persecution of African Americans. To the credit of Mr Bunch and his curators, despite their diplomatic rhetoric, they have clarified the centuries-long history of this violence in an inaugural exhibition of around 3,500 objects selected from the 40,000 objects of – museum. Collection.
An extremely complex narrative, up and down in a constant crash course, in five floors of galleries, three underground, two above, with open spaces – huge reception; Atrium with theater and cafe – in the middle. The three-level “history” section is accessed underground – on the broad themes of slavery, segregation and the pivotal year 1968 – by an elevator or spiral ramp, and contains some of the oldest and most disturbing material.
The story begins with slavery in Africa (although its long presence before Europe is fast disappearing), then in the Americas. Highlights here include an 1800s slave cabin from a plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina; But the most piercing is the iron neck ring of the lock, small enough only for small children. Even words speak louder. A handwritten receipt confirms the sale to a teenage girl and the “problem to come.” A full-scale modernist sculpture of Thomas Jefferson stands in front of the wall, listing some of the slaves he owned, many identified by name: Jenny, Orange, Tomoe, Phoebe, unknown.
Oprah Winfrey’s bed and dress are ready for the reimagined Oprah set. Credit… Lexi Swall for The New York Times
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The section alternates depictions of slavery with themes that sound more cheerful, such as the role of black patriots in the American Revolution. This pattern, the only way to create a balanced impression of storytelling—which is certainly the museum’s standard mode—continues throughout the History section, often with powerful results.
His second level, “The Era of Segregation,” devotes valuable attention to the subject of black entrepreneurship, about which most Americans probably know very little. But what stops you is the sight of a satin white Ku Klux Klan hood, shiny and dirty, sitting with photos of lynchings displayed nearby.
It is great that the museum combines everything: it means that you cannot choose a convenient version of history. At the same time, you get some warnings. The museum frames certain subjects – for example, photos of lynchings – in red lines, alerting viewers to their emotionally charged content. The most disturbing item of all is the window box containing the body of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. own Another space, devoid of objects, is designated as a kind of recovery station for viewers, and the museum has a grief counselor on call. (On my last preview visit recently, none of the spaces were finished and revised, and the entire history section was a work in progress.)
Mamie Till Mobley at the funeral of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who was killed in Mississippi in 1955. Credit… The Chicago-Sun Times/Associated Press
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In the third and higher historical level, called “1968 to the present”, the atmosphere changes, the burials seem to be less. This may be because we are now closer to our time and the personalities and events are better known. Or because the installation is suddenly bursting with multimedia information. The story begins to move at a breathless but measurable clip, character by character—Angela Davis, Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisholm, Anita Hill—and movement by movement, from Black is Beautiful to Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter.
Fusion of politics and pop culture; He’s done it in previous pieces, but here you can see it actually happening: a Resurrection City mural created by protesters who occupied the mall during the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, seen around the corner from a set Oprah recreated”. (Ms. Winfrey donated $21 million to the museum; the Atrium Theater is named for her.)
The impact is confusing, but the story is confusing. If not, it is not a story; It is fictional, as is the narrative of modernism promoted by our art museums. Mr Bunch and his curators understand this and keep the story complex, throwing more themes and words in our direction than you could ever hope to catch in one visit. (However, all the important stuff is left out. Maybe I’m missing something, but AIDS, which claimed the lives of many African-Americans, gets very little mention, and identity struggles around orientation sexual and gender are reduced.)
Track and field star Carl Lewis’ medals from the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics Credit… Lexi Swall
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