Thursday, February 7, 2013

Changing America at the NMAAHC

Museums are one of the best resources at our disposal for enhancing education. Schools routinely visit them to supplement their curriculum. Parents frequent them on weekends or during vacations to expose their children to history, culture, and science. Museums also provide adults with opportunities to learn new things.

Since I work downtown, I frequent the Smithsonian as often as I can at lunch. I usually go to infuse a little bit of culture and history into my day or preview an exhibit before taking my son. I’m excited to bring a discussion about my visits to this blog as part of my “Learn at Lunch” series. Hopefully, it will be a great way to spotlight educational opportunities that are free and accessible to all.
My inaugural "Learn at Lunch" visit took place today at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). I visited the Changing America - The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963 exhibit, which is currently housed at the National Museum of American History. The NMAAHC building is scheduled to open in 2015.

The Changing America exhibit includes a number of artifacts from the Civil War era and March on Washington. My personal favorite was a stunning silk shawl Queen Victoria gave Harriet Tubman. As a knitter, I appreciated the intricate design and preservation. I was also struck by how overwhelming it must have been for this woman of humble beginnings to receive something so beautiful from a queen. The exhibit also includes History Channel video clips featuring notable African-Americans like Attorney General Eric Holder and Congressman John Lewis.

This exhibit would be great for adults and middle to high school students. It requires some reading so I'm not sure I would recommend it for very young children. If I took my son, a 4thgrader, I would try to get a guided tour. It would make the exhibit more interactive and provide some perspective on the historical events.

My experience with a lovely docent at a "Touch History” station just outside of the NMAAHC exhibit perfectly illustrated the benefit of a guide. She provided a demonstration on an actual cotton gin and explained the significance of cotton to American history. This wasn’t part of the NMAAHC exhibit but clearly there is a link between cotton and African-Americans’ struggle. Museum goers could test the cotton gin and get a souvenir piece of cotton. My son would have treasured that as if it were gold. I personally enjoyed talking to the docent more than just watching videos. She really brought that particular piece of history to life.

If you are looking for ways to commemorate Black History Month, I would highly recommend this exhibit. It would be great for a solo excursion or family trip!

No comments:

Post a Comment