New Smithsonian Museum Confronts Race 'to Make America Better'
Writer Michele Norris and the museum’s director, Lonnie Bunch, talk about his vision for teaching Americans about their tortured history.
From the minute he signed on to become director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2005, Lonnie Bunch has sought to redefine the idea of a Smithsonian Institution museum. His effort is evidenced in the design of the building, which is aggressively unconventional. It is evidenced in the way the museum built its collection, bypassing the traditional curatorial route to cull treasures from everyday people in a series of events styled like Antiques Roadshow. And it is evidenced in the museum’s core mission, to take an unflinching look at the darkest chapters in American history with the full expectation that visitors will be pushed beyond their comfort zone.