The building of the National Museum of African American History and Culture is now complete, with interior work underway. Now marks the final countdown to the museum’s grand opening next Fall (exact dates have not yet been announced). Though an actual visit to the long-awaited museum is still many weeks away, visitors to the National Mall next month will get a taste of what’s to come when the museum’s façade will be transformed into a lively and spectacular display of video, music and light.
When the sun goes down each evening between November 16 and 18, the museum’s south exterior, facing Madison Drive, and its west exterior, on 15th Street near the Washington Monument, will be illuminated by a seven-minute video, entitled “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom.” Produced by the renowned filmmakers Stanley J. Nelson and Marcia Smith of Firelight Media, and animated by Quixotic Entertainment, the video projection will transform the museum into a five-story, block-long 3D canvas, according to museum officials.
“What we wanted to do was to metaphorically have the museum speak even before we open next year,” says Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director of the museum.
“And the signal design element for our building is the corona: the three-tiered bronze colored element that has references in African sculpture and African American life and that identifies this building as something unique on the Mall. So to project on to that façade really gave us that opportunity to make the museum speak.”
The display, which the museum’s director Lonnie Bunch has called a “dynamic event,” will be accompanied by a soundtrack of historical music and spoken word, and will pay tribute to three significant moments in history: the culmination of the Civil War with the surrender at Appomattox on April 8, 1865; ratification of the 13th Amendment, which officially ended the institution of slavery on December 5, 1865; and the passage of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.
“One of the things that [the film connects] to is the notion and the vision that the museum would be a place for those who already revel in African American history and culture,” says Conwill. “But most importantly,” she adds that the museum seeks to also provide a unique “lens into what it means to be an American and that those milestones in American history, as viewed through that lens, really amplifies that notion.”
On its opening night, November 16, the state-of-the-art digital projection imagery will also be accompanied by a live, outdoor program, produced and directed by Ricardo Khan, former artistic director of the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre Co. Actor Erik Todd Dellums will serve as master of the ceremonies, which will include remarks by other dignitaries, including Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; and U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton.