The first ever special collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is on display now.Over 150 photos and various objects were put on display May 5 as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibit “More than a Picture.” The exhibition is the first exhibit to open in the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the Concourse level of the newly opened National Museum. “More than a Picture” is set to be the first of many ongoing temporary and short-term exhibits displayed alongside the permanent exhibitions within the museum. “More than a Picture” attempts to complement the museum’s series of photography books called “Double Exposure” and is meant to encourage attendees to learn how photographs capture important moments in memory as well as history, while also helping to shape society’s understanding of African American life and experiences. The exhibit’s photographs are powerful and offer a visual account of key moments in history in private as well as in the community and culture. The photos and exhibit items present experiences of the African American Community from slavery right up until the Black Lives Matter movement; the exhibit aims to uncover the cultural and historical meaning of such events. Among the portraits within the exhibit, patrons will find striking photos of cultural icons such as Michael Jordan, Queen Latifah, Frederick Douglass, Grace Jones and W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as images of the civil rights movement and the more recent uprisings and civil unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson. The selection of portraits includes not only famous people, but many unknown people who helped to shape and redefine history and a sense of community. The exhibit also features photos that reveal personal expressions reflective of identity and culture of African American Culture as we know it. The special exhibits images are all from the photography collection of the museum, which is a key part of its large and valuable collection and holdings. The museum’s photography collection holds over 25,000 images dating back to the 19th century and includes art photography, studio portraits, prints by notable photojournalists as well as family portraits. The work of lesser known photographers and image makers are part of the exhibit and present the struggles, contributions and triumphs of African Americans throughout history. Of the famous and more well-known photographers whose works are on display, visitors will see photos taken by P.H. Polk, Cornelius Battey, Ming Smith, Ernest Withers, Louis Draper, Sheila Pree Bright, Wayne Miller and Zun Lee. The museum’s supervisory curator of collections, Michele Gates Moresi, and Adam Bryant, the curator of photography and visual culture, are together curating this special exhibit which as of now has no set end date.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Entry into the museum and exhibit is free; visitors must request timed entry passes online or in person at the entrance. The museum has had over one million visitors since it opened last year. Interested visitors should consider requesting timed entry passes in advance online to guarantee entry on the desired day and time of visit. While the “More than a Picture” exhibit alone is worth visiting the museum, there is much more to see and explore within the 400,000-square foot facility. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the nation’s most comprehensive and largest destination devoted to documenting, exploring and showcasing African American history. Interested patrons can visit nmaahc.si.edu or call 202-633-1000 for more information.