National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington D.C.

200 15th St NW, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., United States
Phone: +1 202.633.1000
closed on: open daily
Museum Type: History / City

The National Museum of African American History & Culture, also known as NMAAHC, is a museum in Washington, DC, dedicated to African American life, history, and culture. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum was inaugurated by President Barack Obama on September 24, 2016.

Located on Constitution Avenue, next to the National Museum of American History and the Washington Monument, the museum is housed in a building designed by British architect David Adjaye (born in Tanzania, 1966, from a Ghanaian family) in a team with Phil Freelon, Max Bond, and SmithGroup.


The NMAAHC building with the Washington Monument of the right


The NMAAHC is visible on the left just behind the White House


The NMAAHC, view from Constitution Avenue

Encompassing seven floors, two of which are underground, the 400,000 square-meter building is clad with a bronze lattice, which pattern recalls those of traditional African American craftsmanship. Along with being an ornamental feature, the lattice filters and modulates the natural light entering the building through an array of large glass windows. The south side of the museum is marked by a porch facing a large rectangular pool. Along with bronze, the main materials chosen by Adaye for the museum are pre-cast concrete, timber, and glass.
The peculiar “corona” profile of the building was designed with the same angle (17 degrees) of the capstone of the Washington Monument nearby.




photos Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC 


Detail of the bronze lattice


A cross-section, image Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup


Architectural model of the museum, photo John Barrat, Smithsonian Institution

Exhibitions and activities
The museum’s collection comprises some 37,000 objects – including artworks, historical documents, prints, posters, manuscripts, newspapers and magazines, photographs, videos, furniture, home accessories, dresses and garments, musical instruments and records, vehicles, and building models.

The exhibition is divided into 15 sections: American South, American West, Civil Rights, Clothing and Dress, Communities, Education, Family, Literature, Military, Music, Photography, Politics, Religious Groups, Segregation, and Slavery.

The permanent exhibition of the NMAAHC begins 70 feet below ground, in a dramatic, triple-height, dim-light gallery. Through a “timeline” elevator, the public goes back to the 15th century, reaching the historical underground gallery which dramatically depicts the forced transfer from Africa to America, slavery, segregation, and the long and difficult battle for obtaining civil rights and equality. The exhibition here features videos, documents, and artifacts – many of which really spine-chilling, such as the iron shackles utilized by slave traders or a whip used to punish those who dared oppose mistreatment.

Thereafter, the visitors move up and the exhibition unfolds near the perimeter of the museum, with panoramic views on Washington’s monumental features, including the Mall and the Monument Grounds. This part of the permanent exhibition is dedicated to various aspects of African American life and culture – from everyday life to spirituality, from visual and performance artists to sports celebrities, and from music to fashion.


Cut-out scheme, image Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup





Interior views of the museum 

Along with the permanent exhibition, The National Museum of African American History & Culture hosts temporary exhibitions, talks, readings, concerts, screenings, education programs, and workshops.

The museum building includes an auditorium, a shop, and a restaurant/cafe serving dishes inspired by various African American cuisines.

If not differently specified, all photos are by Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC 

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