Welcome to the Museum

January 6, 2017
JAHI CHIKWENDIU—THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

The new museum has thousands of artifacts. Here, visitors check out an interactive touch screen.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA—GETTY IMAGES

February is Black History Month. But visitors to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture celebrate black history every day. The new museum opened on September 24, 2016. It is in Washington, D.C.

The museum honors black Americans throughout history. President Barack Obama spoke at the museum’s opening. “African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story,” he said. “It is central to the American story.”

People view the museum on opening day, September 24, 2016.

PAUL MORIGI—GETTY IMAGES

A Place to Think

The idea for the museum goes back about 100 years. (See “A Museum in the Making.”)

Museum workers spent more than 10 years collecting nearly 40,000 artifacts to show there. Most of the items came from everyday Americans. They were excited to share parts of their history. The items were passed down from family members.

The exhibits take visitors on a journey through the past. They also help them look at problems in the U.S. today. “Hopefully, this museum can help us talk to each other,” Obama said.

The museum has quiet spaces for visitors to sit and think. There is an auditorium for events. The cafeteria is called the Sweet Home Café. It offers many dishes. The food gives a taste of African-American life.

Construction workers put the finishing touches on the outside of the new museum.

BRETT CARLSEN—AP

A Museum in the Making

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture was a long time coming. Here are some important dates in the new museum’s history.

1915 A group of black war veterans has the idea for a museum. It would honor African-American history.

2003 The U.S. government passes a law to help raise money for the museum.

2012 The building of the museum begins.

2016 The museum opens.

Think!

Share a part of your family’s history with your classmates.

Telling Their Stories

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has items that belonged to famous African Americans. Read about four people and some items in the museum. Then answer the questions.

ALI: THE RING MAGAZINE/GETTY IMAGES; DOUGLAS: WALLY SKALIJ—LOS ANGELES TIMES/GETTY IMAGES; BERRY: MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES; ALL OTHERS: COLLECTION OF THE SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE

1. Who owned a lace shawl?

2. Who was a boxer?

3. Two of the people shown above are alive today. Name one. In what year was he or she born?

4. If you could pick one item that tells a story about your life, what would it be? What story does it tell?