National Museum of African American History and Culture is Reopening to the Public

“Its role is still the same,” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the museum, said, “which is to give the world a place where it can confront uncomfortable truths and maybe find some hope.”
Credit…Darren S. Higgins for The New York Times

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington will reopen to the public on Friday — one of four Smithsonian Institution museums that are involved in the latest phase of reopening, the Smithsonian announced on Monday.

For the museum, which is dedicated to telling the African-American story for all Americans, the reopening comes just a few months after new developments began to unfold in the nation’s history. The museum was closed in March amid by the pandemic, and since then the nation has erupted in social justice protests addressing racism and police violence after George Floyd was killed in police custody in May. The protests will give the museum a new chapter in its narrative.

“It is definitely a changed America,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Secretary of the Smithsonian who was the founding director of the museum. “Its role is still the same, which is to give the world a place where it can confront uncomfortable truths and maybe find some hope.”

He said that cultural institutions have a greater role to play in the current historical moment, helping people find beauty and understanding. “But what they have really got to do is help people find hope, which is what the African American Museum does, because the story it tells is the notion that America can be made better,” Mr. Bunch said in an interview.

To eventually be able to tell the story of the last several months, the Smithsonian’s curators have begun collecting the art, signs, photographs and other artifacts that multiplied during the protests, including items from protesters at Lafayette Square near the White House.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Graham Bowley