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National Museum of African American History and Culture Set to Premier

John Muller | 11/16/2011, 6:14 p.m.
The Smithsonian;s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Construction is expected tp be completed in 2015.

Smithsonian Museum, Last Building on the National Mall

With preliminary building, utility, and excavation plans approved, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) promises to become a premiere addition to the Smithsonian museum landscape and the last building on the National Mall, a National Capital Planning Commission representative said recently.

"The size, location, and significance of the building make this one of the most important projects I've worked on," said Shane Dettman, acting director of Urban Design and Plan Review for the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) which accepted NMAAHC's preliminary building plans earlier this month.

Dettman said the "major pieces are in place" for the anticipated approval of the final design in late summer 2012. The planning process for the building began in 2006. It will be erected on a five acre parcel on Constitution Avenue between 14th & 15th Streets, NW, between the Washington Monument and National Museum of American History. The 373,798 square foot NMAAHC is slated to be the last building on the National Mall.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2012 and to be completed in 2015. Currently, the museum has a gallery on the second floor of the National Museum of American History.

The NMAAHC was established on December 2003 when President George W. Bush signed legislation adding the museum to the existing portfolio of the Smithsonian Institution. A site for the first national museum devoted exclusively to the African-American experience was selected in January 2006. In 2007, the museum launched an interactive website, nmaahc.si.edu, becoming the first museum to have an online destination precede the physical one.

"Ultimately, the National Museum of African American History should be a place of meaning, of memory, of reflection, of laughter, and of hope. It should be a beacon that reminds us of what we were; what challenges we still face; and point us towards what we can become," Director Lonnie G. Brunch III says on NMAAHC's website.

From a pool of 22 architectural firms, in January 2009, six firms were chosen as finalists to design the museum. It was announced at the Smithsonian Castle on April 14, 2009, that Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group were selected.

Award winning David Adjaye, born in Tanzania, is blazing a definitive architectural trail in Washington. He was selected by the D.C. Public Library as the design architect of the new Francis A. Gregory Library and Bellevue (formerly Washington Highlands) library.

The museum will offer a diversity of exhibits and programming spanning more than 400 years of African-American history. A current exhibit in NMAAHC's space in the National Museum of American History, "For All the World To See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights" examines the role of visual images on television, movies, magazines, and newspapers during the Civil Rights movement. The museum also offers free in-school programs that introduce young audiences to the importance of primary resources and preserving family oral histories and keepsakes.

Smithsonian Museum, Last Building on the National Mall