The Newest Smithsonian Museum

The latest Smithsonian Museum to be added to the National Mall in DC is the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 

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The museum opened in September 2016, four years after construction began. Since we returned from our travels, it has appeared more or less complete, and so DC area residents like us had been eagerly awaiting it finally opening.

 

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Like all the other Smithsonian museums, admission is free. However, unlike the others, the Smithsonian has addressed the huge popularity of the new museum in an interesting way. You can’t just walk in. You have to obtain (free) tickets in advance, and go in at your scheduled time.

 

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It’s not easy to get these tickets. You have to go to the website at a specified time – new tickets are released the first Wednesday of each month precisely at 9:00 AM ET. You have to hope the system isn’t overloaded with people attempting to get tickets, and then luck into a time or date that works for you. It’s also possible to nab same-day passes, also online, at 6:30 AM every day, or walk-up tickets on weekdays only starting at 1 PM, but these are not easy to get either.

 

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After trying for some number of months, we finally were able to get tickets for July of this year. When the day arrived, we found that despite the system in place to control crowds, there were still plenty of lines inside.

There are six floors of exhibits, three of which are underground. The underground floors are the history-focused portion, and the ones aboveground are culture-focused. After learning that there was a one-hour wait for the history floors and no wait for other sections, we decided to focus on the culture floors for this visit.

 

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Those floors were great. There were a lot of artifacts, divided into different sections of life and how African Americans’ culture affects that part of life, and how discrimination has made it difficult in those areas as well – areas included music, sports, TV, radio, theater, and many more. There were a lot more multimedia elements than I’ve seen in most other museums too. Plenty of excellent short videos and interactive exhibits.

 

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I thought it was extremely well done. We also visited the cafeteria for a good, if overpriced, meal. The cafeteria is divided into stations for different types and regions of cuisine. It reminded me of the American Indian museum’s cafeteria in that way, though I found the food not quite as good.

Overall, I definitely recommend getting a ticket if you can and going. Also, you should prepare for a very long, full day of museum-going if you are trying to see everything in one visit. I know I’m going to be trying for another ticket soon to see the other half of the museum, which I have also heard is rather emotionally draining (unsurprisingly). Once again, you can try for passes here.

Have you been to NMAAHC yet?

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