One of the major challenges NMAAHC faced from its inception, was creating a museum from the ground up. The museum was founded without a collection, but it is now home to over 37,000 diverse artifacts including photographs, furniture, clothing and other objects. The socio-economic and geo-political challenges that impact diasporic African communities have contributed to a lack of historical documentation that has traditionally left said communities underrepresented in the larger narrative. Thus, the collections were essential to creating a successful museum that expanded the national story. In the museum, visitors and researchers have the opportunity explore the collection and engage with African American history and culture thought non-traditional sources.
This panel will feature representatives from the Office of Curatorial affairs detailing how they developed NMAAHC’s stories and collections. Furthermore, the panelists will highlight the methodology, theoretical frameworks, and best practices the staff has used to explore race in a national and international context in a museum setting. The curators will explain the process of developing their collection plans to create the inaugural exhibitions. Additionally, two of the Museum’s Mellon Curatorial Fellows will discuss the research they conducted to support NMAAHC’s mission. All of the participants hold Ph.D.s in disciplines such as History and American studies, but have expanded their work into public history. Working in a museum setting, they have merged their traditional academic training with creative, interdisciplinary approaches in order to share historical narratives in a public space. Audience members will leave with an understanding of how the museum promotes the black experience through both a national and diasporic perspective though its exhibits and collections.