Day 1: National Museum of African American History & Culture
Visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture was such a powerful and transformative experience. It was striking how much thought went into planning the details of this museum. The bronze-colored crown, the elevator ride into the History Galleries, the change from darkness to light, the warnings on sensitive material, and the many multimedia platforms all had meaning and purpose, which gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to be African American.
I spent a majority of the time in the History Galleries and was really moved by many of the objects and the design of the exhibits. I had read about the complexity of the exhibit “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty” in the article Making A Way out of No Way by Lonnie G. Bunch III (founding director of the NMAAHC) but I had no idea just how much it would impact me. When I walked into the “The Revolutionary War” area I caught a glimpse of Jefferson’s statue to my right and I felt a familiar sense of honor and pride in having attended the University of Virginia. After viewing the war exhibit I moved into next room and was overwhelmed by the size of wall, the words, and of course the brick wall with all the names of the enslaved residents of Monticello. The moment was transformative because I immediately, and for the first time, felt something other than honor when standing next to Jefferson. It wasn’t a good feeling; it was uncomfortable (as Gretchen Jennings might say). As I mentioned before, I knew the facts, read the article, and been to Monticello more times than I care to admit; however, this was the first time I really felt a different perspective. This moment really shows how exhibit design and immersion can impact a viewer and re-write a familiar story. I can’t wait to go back and explore some of the other exhibitions.