Inside the National Museum of African American History

Modern Cities' Ennis Davis, AICP shares sights and scenes from the inside of Washington, DC's National Museum of African American History & Culture.

Designed by an architectural team led by Sir David Frank Adjaye, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has quickly become a Washington, D.C. “must see” since its opening on September 24, 2016. Situated just northeast of the Washington Monument, NMAACH covers 350,000 square feet of space and is one of the most popular Smithsonian museums with 1.2 million visitors within its first six months of operation. While Patrons spend an average of six hours at the $250 million museum, you’ll need at least two full days for careful observation of its massive collection.

About the Museum


The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. There are four pillars upon which the NMAAHC stands: It provides an opportunity for those who are interested in African American culture to explore and revel in this history through interactive exhibitions It helps all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences It explores what it means to be an American and share how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture It serves as a place of collaboration that reaches beyond Washington, D.C. to engage new audiences and to work with the myriad of museums and educational institutions that have explored and preserved this important history well before this museum was created. The NMAAHC is a public institution open to all, where anyone is welcome to participate, collaborate, and learn more about African American history and culture. In the words of Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Museum, “there are few things as powerful and as important as a people, as a nation that is steeped in its history.”


Advance timed entry passes for individuals are released monthly. NMAACH’s next release for September 2017 passes is on Wednesday, June 7th at 9 a.m. If you’re not lucky to land a timed entry pass for your visit, Same-day timed entry passes are available online beginning at 6:30 a.m. ET daily until they run out. If you can’t or don’t have plans to attend anytime soon, here’s an inside peak of what you’re missing.



Heritage Hall serves as NMAAHC’s main entrance and lobby at street level. Here, you’ll find the museum’s gift shop and main information desk. Sweet Home Café is a 400-seat, luncheon-only restaurant featuring food stations, where dishes important to the African American experience may be purchased, is situated on the Concourse Level below Heritage Hall.