New African American Smithsonian museum opening in D.C.

Families can explore African American history and see Michael Jackson’s fedora, Muhammad Ali’s robe and headgear, and a slave cabin from the 1800s at the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture opening this month.

AA Museum Outside2 Alan KarchmerThe new museum, on the mall in Washington, D.C. , has its grand opening Sept. 24. Though tickets for the museum the first weekend no longer available, there is a three-day festival open to the public as part of the celebration.

The museum’s grand opening is Saturday, Sept. 24, 1-6 p.m., with a dedication ceremony in the morning. Opening celebrations begin Friday, Sept. 23, with the three-day music festival called Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration.

The music festival runs Friday, Sept. 23, noon-5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25, noon-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Guests can hear spoken word, oral history activities, musical performances and evening concerts during the festival.

With 12 galleries on nine floors and 13 different interactive exhibits, the museum covers African American history from slavery to present day. Visitors can learn how families and individuals were successful under difficult conditions throughout American history.

The museum also includes exhibitions about literature, theater, music, dance and other art forms that have influenced society.

A few of the main attractions at the museum include Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac, a dress made by Rosa Parks, a theater named after donor Oprah Winfrey, and Harriet Tubman’s hymnbook.

Mobile device tours are available. Parents can choose the “family” tour option and hear detailed stories about exhibitions and collections. Then stop by the museum store or cafe, which will serve African American cuisine from various U.S. regions and family-friendly options for kids.

Admission to the museum is free. Timed passes are available to alleviate extended wait times for visitors. Families can obtain timed passes on the National Museum of African American History and Culture website, nmaahc.si.edu, via call center at 202-633-1000 or at the museum.

How to Build a Museum book coverKids and adults can learn more about the museum's development — 100 years in the making — in "How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture" by Tonya Bolden (Penguin Random House Publishers and Smithsonian). With behind-the-scenes photos of people, objects and construction plus facts, figures and history, the book tells the story of the how the new museum got built and why it's important to American history.

By Kathlyn Carney

Top photo by Alan Karchmer

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