The Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

I was among the lucky ones who were able to see the inside of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., before it opened to the public.

Here are a few of the photos that I took on the visit on press day, September 14.

In April 2009, the team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup won the competition to design the museum, with David Adjaye as design architect and SmithGroupJJR, which has had a long working relationship with the Smithsonian, focusing primarily on the structure. Philip Freelon, FAIA, IIDA, who was the architect of record overseeing the museum project, was Contract magazine’s 2008 Designer of the Year. He had led his own practice, The Freelon Group, which was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2014. The late J. Max Bond Jr., FAIA, and his firm Davis Brody Bond were instrumental in the initiation of the project as well as the design of the levels below grade that include the history exhibitions.

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Architect David Adjaye and Contract Editor in Chief John Czarnecki in the museum.

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Architect Zena Howard of Perkins+Will with Rev. Jesse Jackson at the press opening. Howard managed many aspects of the design process, working with Phil Freelon.

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Rev. Jesse Jackson being interviewed in the museum.

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Inside the Oprah Winfrey Theater within the museum.

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From the museum: “The museum acquired the 44-seat Southern Railway car (No. 1200) in 2009. Built by Pullman Palace Car Company, the passenger coach was refurbished in 1940 and 1950 to create separate seating for white and “colored” passengers; it was used as a segregated passenger car from 1940-1960, serving routes in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Before it was donated to the museum, the rail car was stored at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn.”

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As seen two weeks before opening, with curatorial materials still on the floor, here is the dramatic wall marking the beginning of the U.S. with a passage from the Declaration of Independence.

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A statue of Thomas Jefferson and a portion of the Declaration of Independence.

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On the main lobby level, the Corona Pavilion is a glass-enclosed gathering point to view an introductory video about the museum.

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A view of the lobby of the museum toward the glass-enclosed Corona Pavilion.

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An exhibition about music and culture, including instruments and clothes from well-mown musicians.

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This is a replica of The P-Funk Mothership, which George Clinton and his group had on their stage at several performances.

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Posters for music printed by Globe Poster Printing Corp. in Baltimore. In the 1950s, the company printed many posters for rhythm and blues performances.

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This is a boom box that Public Enemy used in 1987.

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Chuck Berry’s red 1973 Eldorado convertible is on display.

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Chuck Berry’s red 1973 Eldorado convertible is on display.

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At the press opening, Museum Director Lonnie Bunch was being interviewed.

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Philip Freelon, FAIA, IIDA, who was the architect of record overseeing the museum project, had led the firm The Freelon Group that was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2014.

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Inside the Sweet Home Cafe.

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Outside the Oprah Winfrey Theater.

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