National Museum of African American History and Culture

I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. during spring break and it was incredible to say the least. As you’re approaching the building you can see it has a specific architecture style, so it stands out. “Its design represent the past, present, and future of the African American experience in ways tangible and symbolic.” So you can only imagine what the interior is going to look like–rich in history and symbolic of the times. The museum itself is massive so I’m going to focus on the third floor because it stood out to me the most and spent most of my time there.


As you’re walking to the Double Victory: the African American Military Experience you’re surrounded by artifacts in glass panels. The designers have made decisions both with the physical elements and with the space itself. As you’re walking you’re kind of “forced” to turn right which is where the timeline begins. It talks about the difficulties in which they had to face during war so it sets the mood by using a dark background where the artifacts are placed in front of and uses the light to help with that as well. So already your mood has changed because the environment changed. I felt like the way they placed all the elements and the colors was meant to show respect and appreciation to those who have served in the army. Most of the colors in this specific exhibition were dark to relate to the times and the uneasiness of war. I was surrounded by so much information: sound, images, text and artifacts to support what was being said. The navigation came easy with this exhibition and it was perfectly designed to keep the visitors intrigued and wanting more. In the center of this space is a theater and you basically go through it and come right back out because of the way the walls around it are shaped. I’m inserting an image to help.

Plan of the museum showing the path visitors would take


Then comes the Sports: Leveling the Playing Field Exhibition, which I think was also incredible in the ways they’ve designed it. As you’re walking into the space you’re faced with three life sized men two of which have their fits in the air. It was during the Olympics of 1968 that they protested. When I first saw this I got goosebumps all over my arm I think that the scale of this is what made such a lasting impact. Right behind the statue is a giant screen reinforces the fact that you’re in a sports exhibition where you can hear people clapping and cheering on with commentators in the background. You almost feel like you’re being transported to a different time. I think that the way the theater was placed and the way it embraces you also makes an impact as you’re watching the screen.

View from the theater


There were so many elements that took into play when designing an exhibit that’s immersive. The museum itself really tried to hoan in on what needed to be done in order for the visitors to feel in the space. Other spaces that stood out as well was the Musical Crossroads Exhibition where the clothes were placed in glass boxes and music was playing with lighting that depended on the time (Jazz, Rap, Soul Music, etc). It really is incredible when you go to a space that you’ve never been to before and feel like everything makes sense.


Lighting in the Jazz section