Smithsonian Offering Free Timed-Entry Passes To Visit The New National Museum
National Museum Of African American History And Culture Announces Five Grand-Opening Sponsors
The dedication of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will take place Saturday, Sept. 24, on the National Mall. President Barack Obama and other dignitaries will dedicate the museum at an outdoor ceremony beginning at 9 a.m.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established as the 19th Smithsonian museum by an Act of Congress through legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. Groundbreaking occurred in 2012. In 2009, the museum’s architectural team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR was selected, and in 2011 Clarke/Smoot/Russell was chosen as the construction firm. David Adjaye is the lead designer, and Phil Freelon is the lead architect. The landscape design is by the team of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.
The Smithsonian broke ground for the museum Feb. 22, 2012 on its five-acre site on Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets N.W. The 400,000-square-foot building has five levels above ground and four below. The museum will have exhibition galleries, an education center, a theater, café and store, as well as staff offices. Among the building’s signature spaces are the Contemplative Court, a water- and light-filled memorial area that offers visitors a quiet space for reflection; the Central Hall, the primary public space in the museum and the point of orientation to building; and a reflecting pool at the south entry of the museum, with calm waters meant to invite all to approach.
The museum occupies a prime location in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall at the corner of Constitution Avenue at 14th Street, across from the Washington Monument. The nearly 400,000-square-foot museum will be the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American experience. Looking north from the building, visitors can see the White House, which made history in 2008 with the election of President Barack Obama. Rising to the east beyond the National Mall and other Smithsonian museums is the U.S. Capitol, seat of the nation’s legislature. And to the south and west are monuments and memorials to Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, whose contributions to African American history and culture are told in the museum.
From one perspective, the building’s architecture follows classical Greco-Roman form in its use of a base and shaft, topped by a capital or corona. In this case, the corona is inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa. Moreover, the building’s main entrance is a welcoming porch, which has architectural roots in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora, especially the American South and Caribbean. Finally, by wrapping the entire building in an ornamental bronze-colored metal lattice, Adjaye the architects pays homage to the intricate ironwork that was crafted by enslaved African Americans in Louisiana, South Carolina, and elsewhere.
Significantly, the enveloping lattice also opens the building to exterior daylight, which can be modulated according to the season. In one sense, this is architecturally practical and sustainable—and will help the building become the first Smithsonian museum to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. But the openness to light is also symbolic for a museum that seeks to stimulate open dialogues about race and to help promote reconciliation and healing. From the topmost corona, the view reaches ever upward, helping to remind visitors that the museum is an inspirational open to all as a place of meaning, memory, reflection, laughter, and hope.
Many of the world’s great buildings have integrated their architectural form with their function or purpose. The NMAAHC follows this principle in the sense that the building (as a “container”) embraces its content—which is the American story told through the lens of African American history and culture. Fulfilling a decades-long dream, the NMAAHC building is a community resource that helps visitors learn about themselves, their histories, and their common cultures. The light reflected from the bronze-colored lattice will serve as a beacon that reminds us of what we were, what challenges we still face, and what we may hope to become. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the NMAAHC, has described it, “This building will sing for all of us.”
Following the dedication ceremony, the museum will be open to the public, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 25, 10 a.m. – midnight. Due to the size, nature and high level of interest in the dedication ceremony, the museum is distributing timed-entry passes to serve as many visitors as possible while maintaining a smooth flow of people into the museum.
Due to the continued high level of interest in visiting the museum, more than 80,000 additional free timed passes will be made available through Sunday, Oct. 2, in order to serve as many visitors as possible while maintaining a smooth flow of people into the museum.
On Tuesday, September 6th beginning at 9:00 a.m. EDT, additional Timed Entry Passes to the Museum were made available to the general public for:
- Grand Opening Weekend Saturday, September 24th and Sunday, September 25th.
- Extended Museum visiting hours for Monday, September 26th through Sunday, October 2nd.
- The months of November and December. (See details on timed-entry passes below.)
“We are humbled and honored by the outpouring of visitor interest in celebrating the museum’s grand opening with us,” said Bunch. “As a result of this unprecedented interest, we are making more passes available so that as many people as possible can experience the museum in person during this historic moment and for years to come.”
The opening of the National Museum Of African American History And Culture will be the focus of a week-long celebration that begins with a dedication ceremony. The celebration continues with extended visiting hours and a three-day festival showcasing popular music, literature, dance and film. Also planned are events co-hosted by other museums around the country and in Africa.
Large crowds are expected for the dedication. Security screenings will occur at entrances to viewing areas on the Washington Monument grounds for the dedication ceremony and the Freedom Sounds Festival. Security clearances also are required for all visitors entering the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
There will be no general public admission to the grounds of the museum during the dedication ceremony. However, the public is invited to watch the ceremony from the grounds of the Washington Monument and on Jumbotrons around the site. Visitors can gain entry to the site only through security screening at access points at 17th Street N.W. and Constitution Avenue N.W. or at 17th Street S.W. and Independence Avenue S.W.
The museum will open with 11 inaugural exhibitions that will focus on broad themes of history, culture and community. The exhibitions have been designed by museum historians in collaboration with Ralph Appelbaum Associates.
These exhibitions will feature some of the more that 34,000 artifacts the museum has collected since the legislation establishing it was signed in 2003. The museum’s collections are designed to illustrate the major periods of African American history. Highlights include: a segregation-era Southern Railway car (c. 1920), Nat Turner’s Bible (c. 1830s), Michael Jackson’s fedora (c. 1992), a slave cabin from Edisto Island, S.C. plantation (c. early 1800s), Harriet Tubman’s hymnal (c. 1876) and works of art by Charles Alston, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden and Henry O. Tanner.
While under construction, the museum has had a gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Since 2009, the museum has opened seven exhibitions in the space including “Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection” (on view now), “The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise” and “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and The March on Washington, 1963.”
The museum’s first exhibition, “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Photographs,” opened in 2007 at the International Center for Photography in New York and toured 15 cities.
In addition to exhibitions, the museum has also launched several education and research programs. “Save Our African American Treasures” was launched in Chicago in January 2008 and is one of the museum’s signature programs. Participants work with conservation specialists and historians to learn how to identify and preserve items of historical value, including photographs, jewelry, military uniforms and textiles.
Previously, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has also received five $2 million sponsorships from Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Prudential Financial, Inc., Target and Toyota to support the museum’s grand-opening celebrations and inaugural events. Each is a founding donor of the museum, and the sponsorship of the museum’s opening represents additional support for the museum.
“These corporations have been longstanding, essential partners in the campaign to build this museum,” said Bunch III. “Now, their support as sponsors will enable the museum to host a public celebration that reflects the historic significance of this event: the opening of the first national museum dedicated to the African American experience.”
About the Sponsors
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk-management products and services. In addition to donating $2 million to the museum’s capital campaign, Bank of America also supported the development of the museum’s permanent collection and collections care.
Kaiser Permanent is one of America’s leading health-care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Kaiser Permanente is committed to providing high-quality, affordable health-care services and to improving the health of its 10 million members and the communities it serves. Kaiser Permanente also donated $5 million in support for the museum’s capital campaign.
Prudential Financial is a financial services leader with operations in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Prudential has a diverse workforce with employees who are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services. Prudential also donated $1 million in support of the museum’s capital campaign.
Target is a Minneapolis-based retailer serving guests at 1,797 stores and online at Target.com. Since 1946, Target has given 5 percent of its profit to communities, which today equals more than $4 million a week. Target also provided early support for the museum’s capital campaign in the amount of $5 million.
Toyota is a top automaker committed to building vehicles for the way people live. Over the past 50 years, Toyota has built more than 30 million cars and trucks in North America, where they operate 14 manufacturing plants and directly employ more than 44,000 people. Toyota is committed to helping community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. Toyota has provided prior support to the museum’s capital campaign in the amount of $1 million, and the company’s sponsorship recognizes the corporation’s and the museum’s parallel commitments to education and conservation.
Timed passes are required for entrance into the museum and will continue indefinitely. Beginning Saturday, Aug. 27, at 9 a.m. EDT, timed passes will be available through the museum’s website (www.nmaahc.si.edu). There will be no same-day walk-up passes available Sept. 24 or Sept. 25.
The passes are timed at 15-minute intervals. There will be no limit on the amount of time visitors spend inside the museum.
Timed passes can be accessed in advance online and by phone. On Monday, Sept. 26, the museum will begin distributing a limited number of free same-day timed passes on a first-come, first-served basis.
Free timed passes for visitors will be available online at www.nmaahc.si.edu beginning now. There is a limit of six free timed passes per email address.
Up to six free timed passes obtained through the Customer Support Center will be emailed or mailed in advance. Contact ETIX Customer Support Center at (800) 514-3849 or (919) 653-0443. Hours of operation: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon – 8p.m. EDT.
Nonprofit Groups: School, student, religious and community-based organizations with groups of 10 or more may obtain free advance timed passes by phone. It is recommended groups provide at least one adult chaperone for every five students under the age of 18. Contact ETIX Customer Support Center at (800) 514-3849 or (919) 653-0443.
Same-day Passes in Person: Four free timed passes per visitor can be obtained in person at the museum on the same day of the visit. Passes are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis by the museum’s Visitor Services staff at beginning at 9:15 a.m. daily.