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How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

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Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is truly groundbreaking!  The first national museum whose mission is to illuminate for all people, the rich, diverse, complicated, and important experiences and contributions of African Americans in America is opening. And the history of NMAAHC--the last museum to be built on the National Mall--is the hist Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is truly groundbreaking!  The first national museum whose mission is to illuminate for all people, the rich, diverse, complicated, and important experiences and contributions of African Americans in America is opening. And the history of NMAAHC--the last museum to be built on the National Mall--is the history of America. The campaign to set up a museum honoring black citizens is nearly 100 years old; building the museum itelf and assembling its incredibly far-reaching collections is a modern story that involves all kinds of people, from educators and activists, to politicians, architects, curators, construction workers, and ordinary Americans who donated cherished belongings to be included in NMAAHC's thematically-organized exhibits.  Award-winning author Tonya Bolden has written a fascinating chronicle of how all of these ideas, ambitions, and actual objects came together in one incredible museum. Includes behind-the-scenes photos of literally "how to build a museum" that holds everything from an entire segregated railroad car to a tiny West African amulet worn to ward off slave traders.


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Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is truly groundbreaking!  The first national museum whose mission is to illuminate for all people, the rich, diverse, complicated, and important experiences and contributions of African Americans in America is opening. And the history of NMAAHC--the last museum to be built on the National Mall--is the hist Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is truly groundbreaking!  The first national museum whose mission is to illuminate for all people, the rich, diverse, complicated, and important experiences and contributions of African Americans in America is opening. And the history of NMAAHC--the last museum to be built on the National Mall--is the history of America. The campaign to set up a museum honoring black citizens is nearly 100 years old; building the museum itelf and assembling its incredibly far-reaching collections is a modern story that involves all kinds of people, from educators and activists, to politicians, architects, curators, construction workers, and ordinary Americans who donated cherished belongings to be included in NMAAHC's thematically-organized exhibits.  Award-winning author Tonya Bolden has written a fascinating chronicle of how all of these ideas, ambitions, and actual objects came together in one incredible museum. Includes behind-the-scenes photos of literally "how to build a museum" that holds everything from an entire segregated railroad car to a tiny West African amulet worn to ward off slave traders.

30 review for How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Obsidian

    History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. -James Baldwin, "The White Man's Guilt History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. -James Baldwin, "The White Man's Guilt," 1965 A great introduction to how the newest Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture was built. This coffee table book was great and I am so happy that I took time out to deal with the crowd of people at the National Book Festival and get a copy of this. Since you cannot even get into this museum until March sometime (the timed passes sell out in seconds, yes getting in here is more prized than Hamilton tickets) this gives you a great peek at the history behind the museum. The book also has a lot of photographs and other memorabilia tucked within its pages. On December 16, 2003, President Bush signed the bill that authorized the creation of a national museum of African American History and Culture. After that the book follows the man who would be tasked with bringing the museum into being, Lonnie G. Bunch III. From there it goes into the museum looking for objects to display and to find someone to design it. The museum showcases thinks important to the African American culture that takes a look at slavery, emancipation, serving in the military, fighting for equal rights, and impact to sports, music, and other forms of art. I was able to stand outside and listen to President Obama as he gave a speech and opened the museum this year. I felt connected and seen in this world in a way I had not before. It was wonderful to have so many people of all different races and background there to witness this museum opening. I will never forget it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    I absolutely loved reading this book and I revisit it all the time! I frequently book talk it to 3rd graders and up, first and foremost because it's engaging and really interesting; but secondly because it helps children understand how museums come to be! Well, how good museums can come to be. I am working on an ancient Egypt virtual escape room with my coworker and I've been trying to find a good way to introduce children to the fact that a lot of the artifacts we see in museums are the ill-got I absolutely loved reading this book and I revisit it all the time! I frequently book talk it to 3rd graders and up, first and foremost because it's engaging and really interesting; but secondly because it helps children understand how museums come to be! Well, how good museums can come to be. I am working on an ancient Egypt virtual escape room with my coworker and I've been trying to find a good way to introduce children to the fact that a lot of the artifacts we see in museums are the ill-gotten gains of imperialism. All that cool stuff is stolen. There is a section in this book where Bolden talks about the process of traveling all over the United States to meet people, interview them, and acquire their possessions that tell both big and small stories of American Black history. Not all museums are created like this! This book tells the story of a museum, every single step of which is intentional, purposeful, and meaningful. Kids generally don't get as excited about museum curation as I do, but periodically I will find the exact right person and they will dive right in.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Bolden divides this book into three sections: preliminary planning of the museum, construction, and what is currently featured in the museum. Sometimes the text feels jargon and stat heavy but an otherwise interesting look at this exciting addition to our nation's capitol. Bolden divides this book into three sections: preliminary planning of the museum, construction, and what is currently featured in the museum. Sometimes the text feels jargon and stat heavy but an otherwise interesting look at this exciting addition to our nation's capitol.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    How do you build a museum from scratch?? Read this and find out. Not only did they have to find a site for this museum and design and build it, but they also had to solicit items and artifacts to include in the museum, which boggles my mind. Most museums start with a collection that is donated and design a museum around it, but in this case they started literally from nothing. I wish I could have been there as items were being donated. Imagine the treasures! Such excitement! The first half of Bol How do you build a museum from scratch?? Read this and find out. Not only did they have to find a site for this museum and design and build it, but they also had to solicit items and artifacts to include in the museum, which boggles my mind. Most museums start with a collection that is donated and design a museum around it, but in this case they started literally from nothing. I wish I could have been there as items were being donated. Imagine the treasures! Such excitement! The first half of Bolden's book describes how the museum came to be built. The idea for it was conceived 100 years ago! Decades were spent in trying to get legislation passed that would authorize the building of a national museum and a commission to plan it, and well as provide matching funding from the government. Millions of dollars had to be raised. No wonder it took 100 years! Bolden then describes how the building's design was chosen and how it was built. The second half of the book describes some of the artifacts to be found in some of the museum's 11 permanent exhibits. I would love to see them! I hope this book will inspire young readers (and older ones too) to want to see it for themselves. By recommended!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    A great story about the history behind the development of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There is text, photographs, drawings, all very well done.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Tongate

    Now inspired to tour the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture on the next trip to D.C. Now inspired to tour the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture on the next trip to D.C.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This title is a little deceptive as it is how the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture came to be. It is the historical beginnings of this museum that was most interesting to me. The first chapter entitle, "The Dream" revealed to me that the beginning of this museum was in 1915during a meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic where a group of African American veterans put forth the idea of erecting a monument to the Negro Soldiers and Sailors of the United State This title is a little deceptive as it is how the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture came to be. It is the historical beginnings of this museum that was most interesting to me. The first chapter entitle, "The Dream" revealed to me that the beginning of this museum was in 1915during a meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic where a group of African American veterans put forth the idea of erecting a monument to the Negro Soldiers and Sailors of the United States of America. Ultimately after a hundred years this idea became a museum of the African American experience in the United States. Sorry but somehow the text of the book did not engage me in the way I hoped it would. Lots of photographs of the actual building of the Museum and artifacts that are on display.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pat Mills

    I visited this museum building twice when I was in Washington in September. It is a brilliant building to experience in person. I was happy to have been able to borrow and read this book at my local Canadian library branch before leaving on my trip. It was a wonderful introduction to a bold new museum. A museum where the subject matter is both emotionally seering and joyful. The cover illustration of the building actually under construction was an inspired choice. I was thrilled to find this lov I visited this museum building twice when I was in Washington in September. It is a brilliant building to experience in person. I was happy to have been able to borrow and read this book at my local Canadian library branch before leaving on my trip. It was a wonderful introduction to a bold new museum. A museum where the subject matter is both emotionally seering and joyful. The cover illustration of the building actually under construction was an inspired choice. I was thrilled to find this lovely book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura Giessler

    I appreciated this book because I VERY MUCH appreciate the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American Culture and History. The museum was a long-time coming, and this book walks through that back-story. I have been to the museum only once, and there is so much more I want to see and read, and the book did a good job of outlining various floors and types of exhibits. Not a gripping narrative, but helpful and full of information. I appreciated this book because I VERY MUCH appreciate the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American Culture and History. The museum was a long-time coming, and this book walks through that back-story. I have been to the museum only once, and there is so much more I want to see and read, and the book did a good job of outlining various floors and types of exhibits. Not a gripping narrative, but helpful and full of information.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Y.

    This historical informational book provides readers with a glimpse into the process of building the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History, with both real and historic graphics. The book is categorized into sections of explaining the vision of the museum, finding artifacts, construction of the building, and it's importance for today's society. This book not only explains the upbringing of the museum, but helps the reader understand the importance of learning about other cultur This historical informational book provides readers with a glimpse into the process of building the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History, with both real and historic graphics. The book is categorized into sections of explaining the vision of the museum, finding artifacts, construction of the building, and it's importance for today's society. This book not only explains the upbringing of the museum, but helps the reader understand the importance of learning about other cultures and their history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Lydon

    How to Build a Museum is a great Narrative Non-fiction story that brings a new aspect to all other books. This is based on the new build of the National Museum of African American History in Washington D.C.. This book would be an amazing read right before traveling to go see the museum. It gives extra background knowledge and interesting facts that would enhance the experience.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Lachut

    I've heard it said that the best introductions to topics often come from children's books because of the ways in which they narrativize the most important facts of a subject. While some of the writing is somewhat dense, this book is a good overview of how and why the NMAAHC came about, as well as some of what goes into the ground-up creation of a major museum. I've heard it said that the best introductions to topics often come from children's books because of the ways in which they narrativize the most important facts of a subject. While some of the writing is somewhat dense, this book is a good overview of how and why the NMAAHC came about, as well as some of what goes into the ground-up creation of a major museum.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Kahn

    This attractively designed and informative book belongs in all library collections. Succinct and readable, packed with many well-captioned photos. My colleague who teaches eighth grade social studies and runs the eighth grade class trip to DC is very excited about this!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jo Oehrlein

    Picture book format, but definitely not a picture book. This is a great book about the National Museum of African American History, from the initial idea a century ago, to the final approval, selection of director, building design, artifact gathering, and creation of the exhibits.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annie Oosterwyk

    An interesting, behind-the-scenes, look at the creation of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The photos are great and the book itself is like a history museum.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Monique

    Bolden is brilliant. She carefully writes the story on how the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture was created. It took over 100 years for this dream to come to fruition. The story along with pictures will inspire you. Now to go plan my trip to Washington DC... Bolden is brilliant. She carefully writes the story on how the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture was created. It took over 100 years for this dream to come to fruition. The story along with pictures will inspire you. Now to go plan my trip to Washington DC...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    A book about the history of creating the museum, the construction and the artifacts that are in the museum. Lots of information and a good overview. I was hoping for more info on the artifacts. I'm not sure that a kid will find this book engaging. A book about the history of creating the museum, the construction and the artifacts that are in the museum. Lots of information and a good overview. I was hoping for more info on the artifacts. I'm not sure that a kid will find this book engaging.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Krystie Herndon

    A wonderful book about a place I have had the blessing of walking through, and seeing as many of these artifacts commemorating the human spirit as my twin sister, my daughter, and I could cram into a short afternoon. So well written, makes me want to plan my next trip to this museum!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    Fascinating story and I loved seeing and reading about a sampling of the artifacts that are collected in the museum. This project had been in the making since 1920. Long overdue. Would like to purchase for my library collection.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Accessible enough for middle school readers, interesting enough for adults.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Britt

    I mean, this is as interesting as a book about a museum can be. Great information, lovely pictures, made me want to visit the museum in person and soon.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rani

    #American #story and the making of America showcased! #YoungReaders #PictureBook #BookReview #ChildrensBooks #amreading #leaders #Heroes

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kikiboo

    This book was amazing, I read it right after my visit to Washington D.C. It was fun to read the time line of how this particular museum was built. This book was good.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Bennett

    This title is an excellent read in understanding how a Smithsonian museum is built -- from idea to funding to physical building.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I liked it but think some kids would be bored with the building process chapters. The end sections are the best.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tami

    I cannot wait to see in person.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Young

    Read this the night before I visited the NMAAHC. Great introduction to a phenomenal museum.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Hahn

    Juvenile NF book about the building of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest museum on the Washington Mall

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alina Borger

    Not just a great guide to the museum but to history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Library Lady Terri

    I find that I now want to spend a week in D.C. visiting all of the museums in the Smithsonian family. I love the give back to the community events that the museum instituted for their artifacts.

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