Culture / Travel

Stunning New Museum Opens With a Long Wait List

Getting In Requires a Reservation (and Plenty of Patience)

BY Filippo Tattoni-Marcozzi // 11.02.16

Whoever the next president shall be, he or she will be seeing outside the Oval Office a powerful reminder of the importance of African-American history and culture and this country’s coming to terms with its troubled past, controversial present, and hopeful future.

A new museum built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture, joined the many institutions, museums, and memorials that make this two-mile stretch the most emotionally and symbolically charged in the land.

Designed by Tanzanian-born, London-based architect David Adjaye, the exterior looks like a filigreed bronze tiered basket and a powerful repository of objects, memories, and ideals. Exhibits range from painful to exhilarating: from vestiges of slavery (wrought-iron shackles and a reconstructed early 1800s plantation slave cabin) to Rosa Parks standing next to the dress she wore when she was arrested and papers documenting the emancipation of black communities and the struggle of the civil rights movements.

The David Adjaye-designed museum's interior
The David Adjaye-designed museum’s interior

But there are joyful exhibits at the African American history museum, as well — Michael Jackson’s fedora, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, and Muhammad Ali’s headgear. Even the in-house Sweet Home Café has a well-researched menu, ranging from Southern classics to Caribbean-style favorites, making it an exhibit of its own.

Although the museum, like all Smithsonian institutions, is free to the public, be sure to book your entry: High demand has it fully reserved into March.

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