A dream is nearly fulfilled on the National Mall.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is three quarters finished.
If you’ve driven down Constitution Avenue, you’ve seen its gleaming windows and bronzed panels going up. Ten years after they started work with no staff, no money and no site, you can finally start to see how it will look.
Organizers are a few months behind schedule, but say they’ll be finished in time for the nation’s first African American president to cut the ribbon before he leaves office in January 2017.
On the last build-able lot on the National Mall, in the shadow of a memorial to a president who owned slaves, a monument is taking shape to a people who rose up and demanded America live up to its stated ideals.
“A story of slavery, a story of tragedy. But also a story of America as a work in progress,” said Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s director.
The 150 pound bronze colored aluminum panels evoke the ironwork of the African American slave craftsmen in New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston.
“The goals to sort of bring home this sort of corona to suggest there has always been a dark presence in America that we forgot,” said Bunch.
The panels hang by a slender thread from the fifth floor.
“Like a lampshade,” said Derek Ross, who is heading up construction for the Smithsonian.
Inside the facade, the building is almost transparent.
“I wanted you to be able to look out at an exhibit on the March on Washington and then look out and see the Lincoln Memorial. I wanted you to learn the story of enslavement and then look down Pennsylvania Avenue where the slave pens once were,” said Bunch.
Curators have now collected more than 40,000 artifacts, including a slave cabin, a child’s shackles and a segregated rail car.
But the museum will also hold the joy of Michael Jackson’s fedora and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.
Museum Director Bunch said he wants it to be about much more than just yesterday. He says it also has to be about today and tomorrow, so curators are collecting artifacts from Ferguson, from New York and from Baltimore. They will keep telling the story of America’s efforts to make itself a more perfect union.
SOURCE: Bruce Leshan