WASHINGTON, DC - With less than two weeks until the grand opening, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) held a preview day on Wednesday for members of the media.
"Ultimately, this museum, looks back. Helps contextualize where we are, but hints at what a future can be,” said NMAAHC founding Director Lonnie G. Bunch III during his opening remarks in the Oprah Winfrey Theater.
While construction is still taking place, the 400,000-square-foot building is slated to open on September 24.
"We are so ready it’s ridiculous. We’ve got ten days. Piece of cake,” joked Bunch, when asked about the ongoing construction.
It will be the 19th museum run by the Smithsonian Institution and will focus on the history of African-Americans in the United States.
"I still don’t believe we’re sitting in this building,” said the building’s lead designer, David Adjaye. "I mean when we were talking about this nine years ago it was hard to believe that we would get to this line, because there was so much to do."
Adjaye is referring to the fact that back in 2003, the museum didn’t has any artifacts for its exhibits, much less a site for the museum itself. Now, the museum has over 3,000 artifacts that will be displayed in 12 inaugural exhibitions.
The museum’s exhibits spiral upwards as it shows the path of African-Americans. On the bottom floors, the issues of slavery (one exhibit includes pieces from a slave ship) and segregation are covered. Another floor focuses on the Civil Rights Movement. On the top floor, their contributions to arts, music, sports, and pop culture are featured.
Bunch said that was the kind of contrast he was looking for.
"The goal was to find that tension, between moments of tears and moments of great joy,” said Bunch.
Dr. David J. Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, added he hopes the museum will spark conversation on the issues facing this country.
"Opening now at a time when social and political discord remind us that racism is not unfortunately a thing of the past,” said Dr. Skorton.
The grand opening will be a three day celebration beginning on Friday, September 23. Over 20,000 people are expected to attend the dedication that will take place on Saturday, when President Obama will cut the ribbon to the museum.