A first look inside the Smithsonian’s African American museum

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A first look inside the Smithsonian’s African American museum
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture sits near the Washington Monument. The building is set to open to the public in September / © Jahi Chikwendiu for The Washington Post
A first look inside the Smithsonian’s African American museum
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture sits near the Washington Monument. The building is set to open to the public in September / © Jahi Chikwendiu for The Washington Post

A dream for 100 years, the National Museum of African American History and Culture promises to become an instant favorite when it opens Sept. 24, its soaring spaces and magical views of the Mall a fitting setting for its tale of African American history and achievement.

Museum officials on Tuesday offered a sneak peek at the 400,000-square-foot museum, the 19th of the Smithsonian Institution, that’s next to the Washington Monument. President Obama is expected to cut the ribbon on the dramatic space, which features layers of galleries focused on slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement as well as music, entertainment, sports and politics.

Dozens of hard-hatted workers crammed the fourth-floor cultural galleries, where circular exhibition cases are being filled with objects related to food, education and sports.

“End of Phase One today; that’s like Mile 22 on our marathon,” said Collections Manager Gina Whiteman, adding that there are 12 phases in the installation plan. “This is a long time coming. It’s exciting to see it go from paper to 3-D.”

There is much to be done in the coming months. Wires still hang from the ceiling, and crates of artifacts are parked in every corner of the galleries. Display cases are being built on lower levels, while in the music galleries, cases labeled Bo Diddley, Little Richard and the Jackson 5 await their treasures. […]

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