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9 Things You Need to Know About the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture - Washington, DC

Here’s what you can expect from this architectural marvel located on America’s front yard.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is a powerful, history-making addition to the National Mall.

Admission to the museum is free, but has been in extremely high demand since the facility opened its doors. Timed passes are required to enter. Same-day passes (up to four) are available online beginning at 6:30 a.m. until they run out, while walk-up passes (one per person) are available at 1 p.m. on weekdays. Advance timed entry passes are released monthly. For full details, please visit this page.

1 The museum opened to the public on Sept. 24, 2016

President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama with Bonner family at Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Dedication Ceremony - Washington, DC

The historic museum opening featured much fanfare, including an outdoor dedication ceremony with President Barack Obama, Congressman John Lewis and Stevie Wonder. Check out highlights from the dedication ceremony.

2 Like all Smithsonian museums, the NMAAHC is free to the public!
Like all Smithsonian museums, the NMAAHC is free to the public! Antoine 49 via Flickr

Looking for the museum? You’ll find it right by the Washington Monument. The museum features timed passes, available here and via a call center, and will also be available at the museum on the day of your visit. The passes are printed featuring a one-hour time range, within which you may enter the museum.

3 The only national museum devoted exclusively to African American culture
The only national museum devoted exclusively to African American culture The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

The museum focuses on understanding history through the viewpoint of the African American experience, featuring collections documenting art, history and culture, covering artifacts from the African Diaspora to present day.

4 The building's exterior is inspired by crowns used in West African art
The building's exterior is inspired by crowns used in West African art Michael Barnes/Smithsonian Institution

Conceived by Ghanaian-born architect David Adjaye, the building’s exterior is artfully made up of a three-tiered, bronze-colored screen. This lattice pays tribute to the intricate ironwork forged by enslaved African Americans in the southern United States.

5 The museum is eight stories tall
The museum is eight stories tall Alan Karchmer/Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Five stories are above ground, and three stories below – and they consist of 11 exhibitions covering a variety of topics from history and culture to community, music and the arts.

6 A large Jim Crow-era railway car had to be installed during construction
A large Jim Crow-era railway car had to be installed during construction Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

An inaugural exhibition on segregation, Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876 – 1968, features a Jim Crow-era Pullman Pakace railway car visitors can walk through and around.

7 Discover haunting relics from a slave ship

Ballast Blocks from São José Slave Ship - Smithsonian NMAAHC - Washington, DC

The Slavery and Freedom exhibit will include objects found from a Brazil-bound slave ship, which wrecked in 1794 near Cape Town, South Africa. This ballast block was used to offset the weight of the human cargo.

8 Explore African American music from its beginnings
Explore African American music from its beginnings James Hamilton

Another inaugural exhibit, Musical Crossroads, provides a chronology of African American music from its beginnings to the present.
 

9 The facade was transformed into a projection screen in November 2015

Although the museum doesn't open until fall, visitors were able to experience it when its facade transformed into a projection screen for three nights last November.

Interested in learning more about this historic museum? Check out our guide to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.