If you’ve been to the Mall in the past year, you’ve seen the new National Museum of African American History and Culture taking shape, and a few weeks ago, it finally opened!
In spite of it being a fairly dreary day, the museum still looked incredible. The shape of the building was inspired by the three-tiered crowns of Yoruban art, and the intricate metalwork only gets more beautiful the closer you get.
For more details about the building itself, you can check out their website here!
We headed inside to find that the inside is as beautiful as the outside.
We decided to start with the main gallery, so we headed down stairs.
Now, I’ll be honest, there was quite a line when we went – entrance to the museum is based on timed tickets, but it was still packed! The lines may have died down now that it’s been open for a bit longer, but even if they haven’t it’s well worth the wait! Plus there are displays to keep you occupied along the way.
Finally, we found ourselves at the front of the line, and ready to enter the main gallery, which houses the feature exhibit.
The main exhibit tells the story of African American history, beginning with the origins of the slave trade, through to modern day.
You enter at the very top of the exhibit, looking down into the gallery below (it’s a little tricky to see it here).
Then you hop into the world’s largest elevator (I may be exaggerating, but only slightly), and it takes you down and back in time, to the beginning of the exhibit, and the beginning of the African American story.
Once at the bottom, you wind your way through the displays. Slowly working your way up, and forward in history. I didn’t take that many photos in the actual gallery. There is far too much to take in, and the story is too important, not to be fully present. Plus, you definitely need to check it out in person!
The displays are expertly curated, and incredibly informative. As you might guess, the stories told are often heartbreaking, but there is also a wonderful celebration of African American culture. Amazingly, the gallery strikes a balance between bearing witness to the atrocities in our history, and curating a tone of hope.
Although there are three levels, they flow together so beautifully it doesn’t feel at all disjointed. The galleries give way to large open spaces.
Poignantly displaying the ironies of our country. A country built so that all could be equal that is still, more than 200 years later, working to achieve that goal.
It’s sure to make you think.
One of my favorite parts was an interactive version of the Greensboro lunch counter.
You can pick from a “menu” of topics to explore.
All fascinating and eye-opening.
The gallery goes all the way to modern day. Wrapping up with President Obama’s groundbreaking presidency and all the issues that we still have yet to overcome.
After a fairly intense exhibit, you exit into the reflection room.
Beautiful and quiet except for the water raining from the ceiling, it’s the perfect place to sit and catch your breath. It might be my favorite place in the entire museum.
There are a million other wonderful displays and galleries, there is no way you’ll be able see everything in one trip! I am already planning my return visit and you’ll be itching to come back too!
It’s honestly a museum experience like no other I’ve ever had. It’s moving and heart wrenching and at times horrifying, but it’s also fascinating and inspiring and hopeful. It’s a reminder of things we must not forget, and of our hopes for the future.
If you’re thinking of going (and you should!) you’ll need to get tickets. They’re free, just designed to deal with the museum’s overwhelming popularity! So what are you waiting for? Grab your tickets here, and get going!