A brand new Smithsonian Museum will be a desirable attraction for student travel groups. It is situated prominently on the Mall in Washington D.C. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will open on September 24, 2016 to much fanfare, and includes a welcoming speech by President Barack Obama. An outdoor music festival will accompany the opening on September 23, 24 & 25. The new museum has a contemporary and memorable architecture, created by David Adjaye, an internationally known architect from Ghana, Africa.
Student travel companies will want to schedule student trips headed for Washington D.C. a timed group entry to the museum well ahead of time. After the official opening, it is sure to become a popular item on the itinerary for student group travel. The NMAAHC provides special tours and education programs for school groups of various ages.
There are plenty of reasons to add the National Museum of African American History and Culture to a student travel itinerary. First, the museum’s collection crosses curriculums, appealing to the art, history and social studies student. Second, the Museum draws an accurate picture of the long and tormented history of the African-American, highlighting the most famous figures. From enslavement to freedom to the civil rights movement and the reclamation movement, the unique challenges of the African-American are covered. Many famous leading African Americans are celebrated, giving students an opportunity to learn more about the specifics of the fight for freedom.
The architect, David Adjaye, conceived of the bronze webbed design. The outer form that he evokes is a common motif seen on top of ceremonial and sacred places in West and Central Africa. When light strikes the building, it filters through the webbed design to the interior spaces, giving the visitor a unique display. Adjaye made sure that the windows inside the Museum would offer a view of the major monuments on the Mall, including the Washington Monument.
While researching the history of the building, Adjaye found the very center of the NMAAHC gallery used to be a slave market. So he designed a large circular window overlooking the floor where slave owners viewed the men and women below. Several galleries are housed in the basement levels, giving student travelers a glimpse deep into African Americans beginnings – in a cryptic and darkened environment. As the student groups ascend to different floors, history marches onward to the present.
This Museum has been in the works since 2003. Lonnie G. Bunch, III was the original founding director. Bunch had amassed a significant collection of African-American artifacts and wanted a place to display them and educate Americans about a painful part of U.S. history. Some of his signature artifacts are photographed and available online. Teachers may want to introduce students to the NMAAHC by viewing some of these.
The galleries are separated according to themes and topics of interest to all Americans. A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond offers a window into the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Cultural Expressions, Musical Crossroads, Taking the Stage and Visual Arts and the American Experience highlight famous African American artists and performers and will be of interest to the art, music and theater arts student. Sports: Leveling the Playing Field showcases the best African-American athletes and the history of a long struggle to compete with white Americans. Slavery and Freedom, Power of Place and Making a Way Out of No Way are collections that speak to the struggle to unite African heritage and American identity while experiencing the harshness of survival.
For many student travelers an actual visit to the NMAAHC will be an eye opening experience that offers the African-American perspective on many important topics. Clearly a great deal of intelligence, thoughtfulness and expert planning went into the execution of the newest, and 19th of the Smithsonian Museums.