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Smithsonian's Museum of African American History set for grand opening

By Doug G. Ware
1/27
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is seen on Wednesday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The 400,000 square-foot museum is 60 percent underground and will open to the public on Monday, Sept. 24. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is seen on Wednesday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The 400,000 square-foot museum is 60 percent underground and will open to the public on Monday, Sept. 24. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The Smithsonian Institute is ready to open the brand new National Museum of African American History.

The new D.C. museum is set to open Monday, but members of the news media got a sneak peek of the facility on Wednesday.

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When it opens, the museum will join several other of the Smithsonian's prominent exhibitions -- including the Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum and, perhaps the flagship campus, the Museum of American History.

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"This joyous day was born out of a century of fitful and frustrated efforts to commemorate African American history in the nation's capital," the museum's founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said in a statement Wednesday. "At last the National Museum of African American History and Culture is open for every American and the world to better understand the African American journey and how it shaped America."

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The new museum will display thousands of artifacts that document black history in the United States -- ranging from pieces of a slave ship to Carl Lewis' Olympic gold medals. It will employ about 200 staff members and boast a fundraising program that's so far topped $315 million in private funds.

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A sculpture depicting a civil rights protest by 1968 U.S. Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos is part of the sports exhibit at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The 400,000 square-foot museum on the National Mall is 60 percent underground and will open to the public on Monday, Sept. 24. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

The museum's 12 inaugural exhibitions are grouped around three main themes: history, community and culture and include an exhibit about the museum's evolution called "A Century in the Making," the Smithsonian said.

The architecturally distinct museum is located on the National Mall at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 14th Street, just across from the Washington Monument.

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The museum is 13 years in the making. The institution was established in 2003 but has largely been under construction since, owing partly to a design change of the building.

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"[The museum] honors the dreams of many generations and thousands of people who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make this dream a reality," Bunch said.

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The museum will officially be dedicated on Monday at 10 a.m. EDT, and will be attended by President Barack Obama.

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"If we've done our job right, I trust the museum will be place for all Americans to ponder, reflect, learn, rejoice, collaborate and, ultimately, draw sustenance and inspiration from the lessons of history to make America better."

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