tv National Museum of African American History and Culture CSPAN August 27, 2016 4:51pm-6:01pm EDT
the time of their passion. some say yes, some say no. you have been a great audience. if anyone wants to stay around and ask other questions i will be glad to do it. i appreciate you coming very much. thank you. [laughter] [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> on history bookshelf here from the country's best-known american history writers of the past decade, every saturday at 4:00 eastern. watch any of our programs at any time. visit c-span.org/history. you are watching american history tv all weekend, every
weekend on c-span 3. >> next, we hear from lonnie theh, director of smithsonian national museum of african american history and culture. he talks about how it came to be and some of his favorite artifacts. the museum will be open to an to th open to the public. this is just over an hour. >> it is my real pleasure and honor to welcome lonnie bunch the third, the director of the smithsonian national museum of african american history and culture. lonnie for you about a moment before he joins me on the stage. prior to his 2005 appointment at the smithsonian, his most recent
appointment at the smithsonian, he served as the president of the chicago historical society. he transform that institution and made great strides reaching diverse communities as he launched a program on teenaged life called teen chicago. it is only one of the amazing things he did there. his legacy is very present there. he is a prolific author. he has written on the black military experience, the american presidency, and all black towns of the american west , to the subject of diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on american museums. he is the coeditor of memories of the enslaved, voices from the slave narrative and author of call the law stream back. when i was getting
ready to introduce lonnie, i took out my copy of that book which is covered with hos post-its because of his pearls of wisdom. both books are available in our shop. we may be able to persuade mr. bunch to sign some of those. worked89 through 2000 he at the national museum of american history. he developed a major permanent exhibition in the american presidency, a glorious burden. he served as the curator of history and program manager for the california afro-american museum in los angeles, where he organized a number of award-winning exhibitions including the black olympians 1904-1950 and the african-americans in los
angeles. teachingld numerous positions across the country including american university, university of massachusetts, and george washington university. among his many accolades and awards, he was named in 2005 one of the 100 most influential museum professionals in the 20th century by the american museum -- american association of museums. join me in welcoming lonnie bunch the third. [applause] lonnie: you're the best. thank you all so much. i am pleased to be here. in part because of my respect for this institution.
what an important institution this is. you and brooklyn have one of the best cultural leaders in america with deborah schwartz. i want you to know how great she is. [applause] i cannot waste tell when my staff has written my bio, they tell you everything about me except the fact that i was president of my third grade class two years in a row. there is hope for everybody. is talk about do the challenge of building a national museum. let me begin with a story that shaped my career, i has also shaped this museum. i was asked to curate a huge exhibition on the history of the 19th century. one aspect was going to look at slavery. i didn't want to look at slavery writ large. i want to focus on a single
plantation. i traveled all over the country. i went to cotton plantations in alabama. looked at tobacco plantations. then i was taken to a rice plantation outside of georgetown, south carolina. when i went down the road, i turned the corner and there were 10 slave cabins from the 1840's and 1850's still standing. next to one of the cabins was a johnson, 95 years old. and one of the cabins with his enslaved grandmother. this was the holy grail. someone who could talk about what it was like to be enslaved in one of those cabins. he talked about how the slave took a broom and swept the ground so hard so there would be no vermin. he talked about the world children played making sure the
chimney didn't catch fire or fall down. he took me to the back and talked about the crops his grandmother grew that would supplement what the owner gave them. then we went to the forsyth. tell me what happened over here. he said i'm not going to go over there. please.r. johnson, i came all the way from washington. he said son, i'm not going to go over there. there's nothing but rattlesnakes over there. -- i i stopped running said to mr. johnson, why did you tell me? he said son, people used to remember, and now they forget. if you are a historian, your job is to help make sure people remember not just what they want, but what they need. in some ways that line has stayed with me my whole career.
this museum has really been the struggle for people over 100 years to build a museum that would help people remember, not just what they want to know, what they need to know about the african-american experience. in 1913. began that was the 15th anniversary of the battle of -- that was the 50th anniversary of the battle of gettysburg. there was never any one black in those pictures. this got people excited to create a museum. they began to raise money. world war i happened. they began again and the 20's. calvin coolidge actually passed legislation to create a museum in 1929. what happened in 1929? the great crash. no museum. this idea cap coming up and never got anywhere until the
1980's and 1990's when people began to realize the civil rights generation was passing. they wanted to remember those folks. the reality is, this museum when it was really bipartisan in 2003 is the first time you had republicans and democrats, you had john lewis the great leader of the civil rights movement and his partner was believe it or not sam brownback the current governor of kansas. strange bed fellows. but the reality is they came together to support building this museum and, ultimately, the legislation is passed and signed in 2003, and i came back in 2005 to run this. so the real question was as i began to wrestle with this, what should a national museum be that wrestles with african-american history, that really is the 21st century museum? part of it was easy. part of it was realizing that this had to be a place that
would help america remember. to remember the richness. remember the stories. remember the people in african-american history that you know -- frederick douglass, martin luther king, rosa park. maybe remember them in different ways. in new ways. if this museum was going to be successful it had to introduce you to people who fell out of the narrative. it had to help you remember the enslaved woman who got up every day and fed her kids before she went into the field and refused to let the fields strip her of her humor, of her humanity. it had to help you remember the families that left mississippi for the south side of chicago in 1913 in search of a better day. it had to help you remember people like my own grandmother who took in other people's laundry, who scrubbed other people's floors so her children and grandchildren wouldn't have to. this museum had to help americans confront their
tortured racial past. it had to be a place where you could cry as you ponder the pain of slavery or segregation. it also had to be a place where you found the joy that is in this community. you had to be able to tap your toes to duke ellington or louis armstrong or aretha franklin or somebody from the hip hop world. i have no idea who it is but omebody. in some ways if the museum was simply about remembering i'm not sure that's enough. in some ways what this museum really is, is an institution that takes african-american culture and uses it as a lens to understand what it means to be an american. to say that in essence this is not a story of black people for black people and by black people. it really is a story that in many ways is the quintessential american story. when you want to understand our core values of optimism,
spirituality, resiliency, where better to look than within this community? when you want to think about how notions of citizenship and equality have been expanded, look toward this community. so in a way, the goal of this museum is to say, this is a story that is too big to be in the hands of one community. this is a story that has shaped us all. this is a story that tells us profoundly about who we are as americans. so, in essence, when you come to this museum, regardless of race, regardless of who you are, regardless of whether your family has been here 200 years or got here 20 minutes ago, this is your story. in essence, it seemed to me that to craft a 21st century museum you also had to realize that how do you help americans grapple with something they're not very good at? that is international concerns. we don't do global very well in america. and that the goal was to recognize that we could craft a museum that would help us
understand how international considerations have shaped this community and how this community has shaped globally. and it really came home to me when i was on a trip to what was once called lapland near the arctic circle, had to do with third grade geography. i won't bore you with the stories. but sitting under a reindeer tent with a village elder and through translator the elder says i have two questions. first question, are you an american? got it. easy. second question. o you know al green? i said al green the musician? he said absolutely. here i am in the middle of nowhere and this guy talks about al green. when i came back i called al green and he said of course they know about me. that's al green. the reality is when i think about the challenges of , i ding this museum realized 11 years ago we began
with a staff of two. we had no idea where the museum would be. obviously had no architecture, no architect. but also almost unlike any other museum this one had not a single collection. not a single artifact. it had no money although that's not true. my daughter did give us $7.36 to start. but what we had was a vision. what we had was a desire, a belief to be able to fulfill the dreams of many generations. i have to be honest. i would wake up and say to myself, at 8:00 in the morning, i have the best job in america. and at 2:00 in the morning, it's the dumbest thing i've ever done in my life. because just think about some of the challenges that we faced. the simple challenge of what were the conceptual challenges that you faced? think about it. on the one hand you had nothing to do with, to constrain you.
it could be anything. you began to say, what does african-american mean in the 21st century? what does africa mean in an african-american museum? what does the national museum mean in a trans national age? you began to think about, out of all the stories you tell, how do you figure out what you talk about? how can you craft a museum that can both be about yesterday but also about today and tomorrow? can you really craft a museum that will allow us to wrestle with questions that have divided us, that would allow us to find reconciliation, healing, hope? can you craft a museum that's goal is simple? can you craft a mause yum that can make america better? that's the kind of thing we began to wrestle with. i began to try to figure out, can you humanize history? can you reduce it to human scale? can you help the public embrace
the ambiguity, the complexity, the nuance in a museum? because museums often give simple answers to complex questions. can we help the public embrace ambiguity? in some ways, the real challenge for us was to figure out, you start putting on the walls, on yellow sheets of paper all the different stories. you realize you've got seven, eight exhibitions. so we begin to lay them out. do you do civil rights? do you do slavery? do you do sports? do you do the military? do you do fine art? the next thing you know you realize you need four buildings. so the challenge for us was to ke this work in one single building. but conceptual challenges i thought were going to be difficult but they paled in comparison to some of the other challenges. one of the most amazing challenges, see how i can say this, was the challenge of managing congress.
now, as you know, congress is the biggest owner of this museum and of the smithsonian. so part of what you want to do is work with congress to make sure that you get the support you need. but i remember very early on in this process i was told by the smithsonian senior people that i needed to go meet some people on the hill and meet a particular member of congress who was a big propose rator. and they said, well, he's not going to like you so get ready for this. i said, what is he not going to like? he doesn't even know me. he said he doesn't like the smithsonian. he's not going to like you. but you have to go do this. so the night before i was to see him i was at a reception at the library of congress and so was he. so i went up and he was a congressman from north carolina. my mother is from north carolina. so i played the game. may mom's from north carolina. let's talk about north carolina. and the guy was very friendly. so i figured, how hard can this be? well, the next day i walk nah his office. first of all he's got one of
those desks where he's up here and you're down here. i walk in and he's got 10 members of his staff standing across the wall with their arms crossed. i said to him, well, congressman, it's good to see -- he cuts me right off. he says, listen. i know why you're here. you want me to support you and the smithsonian. i don't like the smithsonian. i don't like you. in fact, i think that what i'll do is i will give you $25,000, make it a website, and go away. well, i'm sitting here going, what do i say? now, part of me is a jersey kid that says, you want to fight? but you can't do that. so then i said, well, sir, and he kept saying, here. make it a website and go away. i said, i worked at the museum of american history for many years and one of the things i've seen is the power of the authentic, how people respond when they see the star spangled banner or greensboro lunch counter i collected years ago. all of a sudden he starts to get red and shake. and he starts to just grab his
head. i'm thinking, he's going to have a heart attack. i had this vision. bunch kills member of congress. career over. he started to cry. his staff started to move me out. i said what did i do? he comes to me and he says i had forgotten i was at college in wake forest when the greensboro lunch counter sit-ins occurred and i raised money to bail people out. he put his arm around me and said thank you for helping me to remember. i'm not going to dwiff you any money but thanks for helping me remember. the good news has been, however, i won't say that he lost his re-election bid because of that but he lost his re-election bid. the good news is that many people in congress became great supporters of the museum. i realized that we needed to have 30 angels. 30 people who would sort of speak in our behalf. we've been very fortunate to
get the support from congress so that really has worked in a way that i wasn't sure it would. but i'll tell you what i think was in some ways the biggest challenge for me. that was managing the conflicting expectations of what this museum would be. i received a letter that began, dear left wing historian. so i knew it wasn't a fan letter. but the letter i took very seriously. he wrote, what happened to the smithsonian i love? it used to celebrate america. it used to explore american greatness. now you're coming to talk about things that are left unsaid. you're coming to talk about things better left unsaid. after all, don't you know america's greatest strength is its ability to forget? i'm out of a job. but he goes on, then, to say this museum shouldn't be built. historians like me should be
fired and shouldn't work at the smithsonian. i must admit it threw me off because he signed it, best wishes for your continued success. but ultimately, balancing the different expectations has been really one of the big challenges. think about it. i get letters from people who say to me, this has to be a holocaust museum. this has to be a museum that says, what they did to us. i have other people who stop me on the street and hug me and then say, but please don't talk about slavery. i realize one of the great challenges for this museum to work it has to do something that the holocaust museum doesn't have to. it has to illuminate all the dark corners of america. it has to help americans wrestle with their own culpability. one of the great challenges is how do we as a people who view ourselves as always the good guys realize that there were times we weren't the good guys
and how to help people explore that has been one of the great challenges of this. i'd love to tell you we figured it all out but i think the reality is we're probably going to anger a whole lot of people one way or another. but the goal here is to recognize that we want to create a museum that provides the right tension. tension between tragedy and celebration. between resiliency and understanding what it took to survive. to talk, to craft a museum that basically says, you can only understand america if you actually look at it through this lens. so in many ways, the challenge of really trying to craft a museum that will appeal to so many people has been one of the great challenges. i'll tell you the challenge that surprised me. that is the challenge of building a staff. when we started, we had a staff of two.
now there are are 200 people working to birth this museum. and the challenge i thought was going to be, maybe to find people who could do the work we have to do. well, that hadn't been the challenge at all. i keep thinking of abraham lincoln who once said, god save me from office seekers. i mean, the joy is that everybody wants to work. i got a call not too long ago from a woman who said to me, i'd like you to hire my daughter. and she described what her daughter did. i said we're not looking for that. she said, don't you rigse my name? we -- don't you recognize my name? we graduated high school together. i was sitting there going, joann, joann. then i remembered i didn't like her in high school. but i didn't hold that against her daughter. what i realized is that the challenge of building a staff was really not even getting good people but getting people who could handle the visibility, handle the
pressure, handle the stress that this was such a high profile thing but you couldn't fail. and often i would hire good people and what i would say to them is, look. we're making this up as we go along. i want you to craft the biggest educational program online that we can do. often they'd come back and say, well, here is a curriculum package on the civil war. people would get small rather than get expansive. and so part of the big challenge for my vantage point has been how do you help people recognize that this is your chance to test all your ideas, to experiment, to do what you want, to basically try and make this museum the model? that has been one of the real challenges. ultimately, when you said what kept me up at night, what kept me up at night was building a collection. because even if you built the most technologically sophisticated museum of the smithsonian it would fail because you go to the
smithsonian what? to see the right flyer, the ruby slippers shall the greensboro lunch counter. my fear was how do i find the stuff of history? because i've been to the smithsonian so long i knew even if i went into every store room of the smithsonian and said, let me take this stuff, it would still only give us 20% of what we needed. so i had to believe that all of the 20th century and most of the 19th century, some of the 18th century, was still in basements, trunks, and atics. so, basically, we stole the antique road show idea. i admit it. i steal from anybody. what we did is we began to bring together people who knew how to preserve grandma's old shawl or that wonderful 19th century photograph. and we go into communities and we partner with local museums and we would basically have classes on how to preserve photographs, how to take care of textiles. we'd say, bring out your stuff. we'd look at it. and often people would say, we
want to give this to you. and i would always say, first and foremost, give it to the local museum. if we are in l.a. or chicago or jackson, mississippi give it to those museums, first. now, i have to admit in the scholarly parlance if it was really cool it came back to d.c. but the goal was to basically create a conversation that said what you have in your basements, in your trunks, in your atics is the stuff of history. you may not be martin luther king or frederick douglass but your family stories have shaped this country and we wanted to make sure that you shared those stories. you brought those collections. and i'll tell you, as a result of that, we found things that i just couldn't believe. i keep thinking of a man who came to one of these and then called me later and said i have material from harriet tubman. would you like to see it? i'm a 19th century historian
and i said there is no material on harriet tubman in this country. i'm not going to waste my time. he said, look. why don't you at least come to philadelphia and take a look? i figure, not a long train ride. i get a philadelphia cheese steak out of the deal. so what the heck? i go to philadelphia. and this man who was a great collector of books, 6'2," 300 pounds, big guy. he takes out a little box and he reaches in and he pulls out photographs of harriet tubman no one had ever seen. he's got my attention. he starts pulling out material that is just amazing. every time he pulls something out if i got excited he would get excited and he'd punch me. so i was afrayed to get excited because it hurt. but then he pulled out a shawl. an amazing shawl. there is a picture of harriet tubman a couple days before she died wrapped in a shawl. he pulled that shawl out. then he pulled out her him national that had all those had all er hymnal that
the spirituals she would sing when she went into the south. swing low, sweet chair yoth. by the time he brought that out i'm crying and everybody is crying. then he said what i've never forgotten. he said, you know, i could sell this. i could make money. but the reality is it deserves to be seen by the public so it's yours. so i said, sign the paper. he signed it. took it back. in a way, that kind of generosity is what has really shaped our ability to collect, to find things. i'm struck by a woman who came into my office and said, i've got a bag of stuff from world war i. my grandfather was a black soldier in world war i. that's all i know. she dumped the stuff and we looked at it. it turned out her grandfather 369 hell r of the fighters. they were a black unit the u.s. government initially didn't know what to do with so the
u.s. government sent them overseas and they fought in french uniforms under the french control. they were so good they received the french version of the medal of honor. there on my table was his medal from 1919. again, she said, this is yours for the smithsonian, for the public. or i think about the woman who came to me after a talk like this who said, i quit college to go south to help register blacks in the 1960's and i was in birmingham when the 16th street baptist church was bombed. i've been keeping this for years. do you want them? they were shards of glass from the stained glass windows blown out at the 16th street baptist church. so the way people have been sharing their materials, bringing their stories forward has really made this possible. and we went from collecting zero artifacts to now having 40,000 artifacts that can tell this story. but i guess for me the one that
really stays with me more than anything else was i had been spending years trying to find remnants of a slave ship. i had gone over the world because most of the ships that carried the enslaved are on the ocean floor. i actually created a project called the slave rex project to map the ocean floor to find these wrecks. i thought i found one. i found one that left bristol, rhode island in 1794, went to cape coast in ghana, picked up 144 africans, was on its way to an american owned plantation outside -- about 60 miles east of havana in cuba. and i thought we could find it. i spent years negotiating in cuba. we didn't get what i thought we'd find. but then i found through colleagues in south africa another ship. a ship that had gone to west africa, had been chased away by the british, and was on its way -- mows am ozdzonek
bic, picked up 525 people from the tribe from mozambique, was on the way to the new world and sank off cape town. thanks to colleagues overseas we dove on it and brought up pieces of the ship that will be in the museum. what really hit me, i went back micua mbique where the people live and the chief basically had a ceremony and said i want to give you a gift. he gave me this amazing vessel with did shall-he said this is for you. i opened it and it's full of dirt. i'm like, okay. i guess this is a good gift. thank you. he said to me, i don't -- -- you don't understand. i want you to take this and when you go to the site where the ship sank off the coast of south africa sprinkle this dirt over the ship so for the first time since 1798 my people can
sleep in their own land. just amazing to me to be able to do that. those kinds of things have reel hipped shape what we do and what we are and literally when you come to the museum you will see things that i didn't believe existed. now, i told everybody, sure, sure. we can find it. but i was lying. and now we have material that can tell the story of america through this lens. let me talk about the last two big challenges. one was raising money. you know, in my little town that i grew up in, one of the gas stations had a sign that said, cash makes no enemies. let's be friends. so i spent a lot of time searching for friends. and when we had to build this museum, this was to be the first time the smithsonian had a large, public/private partnership. the museum was going to cost roughly $500 million.
congress would pay half. but of course that meant working with congress to get them to actually pay half. and then we had to find the other parts of it. i have to be honest. i didn't think -- i thought, okay. this is going to be hard. how hard could it really be? i remember the first gift i got was a million dollar gift. i thought, geez, a million dollars? pretty cool. a million dollar gift. then somebody said to me, now all you need is just 500 more. okay. i got it. what has been really powerful has been on the one hand an amazing group of people agreed to serve on the board of this museum to help do that. so you have people like the c.e.o. of american express, oprah winfrey, colin powell, laura bush, a kind of who's who. what they did is basically helped because they believed in the vision and they helped to open doors for us to slowly but surely raise the money we needed. but i tell you what makes me proud. that, yes, we have huge
corporate support that has been wonderful. normally when you do a building campaign you get about 17% of your money from the corporate community. we're going to get about 49%. what really hits me is all the new money we found. amazing array of african-americans, sororities, fraternities who have basically said, we will actually contribute significant money. and there's even been an african-american church, alfred street baptist church in alexandria that gave a million dollars. think about the last time a church gave a million dollars to a museum. aband so what really makes this work for me has been the fact that we have a hundred thousand people joined as members. that is more members than any other museum in the smithsonian. they're open. part of where this idea came from was early in my career i was doing work in california and i was talking to an elderly woman, probably my age now.
she seemed old as dirt then, right? i was talking to her. and i said, i'd like to have that old, oval photograph you have in front of you. she said, well you can have the photograph, but you can't have what's stuck in the frame. so i climb up and i get the photograph down. in the frame was her father's membership card from the naacp from 1913. and i never forgot how important that was. so now one of the great joys is having all of these people as members who stopped me on the street, who stopped me in the airport and pull out their membership card. i was flying back from paris three weeks ago trying to, you know, wait that eternal wait once you go through security. you've got somebody who says i want to show you something and he pulls out his membership card. for me the fact that a hundred thousand people said, i want to own this, i may only give $25 or $50 but i want to be part of that, and in a way, what that
means is we are so close to raising our goal that by the time the museum opens i guarantee we will be way past our goal. and it's really been wonderful to me to realize that in a time of the economy falling apart, of rigid, political partisanship, we've been able to get that support. that's been really because so many of you in this room as well. but i guess, let me talk about what i think the last and maybe the most interesting part of the challenges and that is building the building. the day it l you, was announced i was going to take this job i was living in chicago. i was out of the country. by the time i got back there were 15 packets from architects already who said they want to build a museum. before we even knew where it would be architects were sending plans to me. some were amazingly beautiful. some were amazingly bizarre. one of the ones i received was
somebody sent me 150 pages of drawings of the museum next to the washington monument built in the shape of a black power fist. now, there's many things i can do but somehow getting this through congress i didn't think so. you please? didn't think so. but what i realize is that how do i answer the question? what does the building look like? well, i wanted a building that spoke of spirituality, uplift, resiliency. i wanted a building that didn't look like every other white marble building on the mall. i also wanted this to be the first green museum on the mall. and so when we began to wrestle th this it also dawned on me i also wanted a building with a little color on it. i realized there was often a dark presence in america often under valued, not seen,
neglected, that it would be important to say that on this mall. in a way you can begin to see what this building began to look like. it's a pretty good location. somebody wrote, i would never say this, but i got the best office in d.c. okay? i got great views. to you come, you can get see those views. what i really wanted to do was basically -- get to the building. okay. basically what i wanted to do was to figure out how do you make a building that is signature and distinct but still works with the rest of the museums in the mall? and part of what we did is you'll see and i'll show you there is a corona that covers this building. and that corona is in the shape of angles. 17-degree angles. where they came from is i came across a picture of black women in prayer in the early 20th century and their hands were at
this angle. so we took that angle and used that to make the building. and then what we did is i wanted to create a distinctive corona on the building and the architects knew that they wanted to do something that was kind of a bronze based. and you couldn't have solid bronze. they were going to sort of use a sort of mathematical formula and, you know, make some holes in it so it wouldn't be solid. well, i thought why would you do that? why don't you take the idea that says, there's so much of african-american issues hidden in plain sight. what i did is i said, let us go back to the craftsmen, the enslaved craft people who did the iron work in charleston, the screens and iron work in new orleans, and that's what we did. we took those screens and we then made that over the entire building. so, basically, this corona is over the entire building. so that in essence what it does is you can see it glissens in
different light. it carries itself differently. it obviously is also part of how we make it a green museum. i really wanted something that basically said, when you see this building, it's a homage to the fact that so much of our history is hidden in plain sight. so now the building is done, on the national mall, and we are in the process of installing all the artifacts and the like. if you can see, this angle on the corona, so that angle is the degrees that we pictured those women in prayer. and it's also, this what is works in washington, also happens to be the same angle as the top of the washington monument so i can say how the building dances with the buildings around it. okay. i'm a historian. so, basically, what i wanted was a building that would be memorable. that would light up. that would really sort of be a signature building.
and i think you will really love it when you see it. great views. great challenge obviously. it was built on the corner of 14th and 15th in constitution. so it is really at a prime location, the western most end of the smithsonian. everywhere you go you can see it. and, also, one of the things that was really important to me is that because this is my third smithsonian museum, i realize when you go into a building on the mall you go into a building. you forget you're on the mall. i thought the mall was such sacred ground. but i wanted to create vistas so that when you saw the exhibition on the march on washington, you could look out and see the lincoln memorial. in this particular case you could see the monuments. one the vistas we have, we have major exhibitional history of the african-american in the military. there is a lens that peers out toward arlington cemetery. in that lens we've done an exhibition on all the
african-americans who were awarded the congressional medal of honor. some are buried in arlington cemetery so you can actually see where they're at rest. the goal was to really take advantage of the landscape as well. so the key was to have different kinds of vistas to take advantage of the sun, this beautiful, dappling in the building thrawout. beautiful light. and spaces where you can see through just so you can have great vistas. and in essence that's the building. so the challenge for us was how do you build a building that is signature but also works as a mause yum? and i have to be honest. when i began to think about all of this, i wasn't smart nauf to know how hard this was. what i realized is that with the support of good people and many people around the country and the world we can do this. i must admit, not too long ago
i was asked by a reporter, what happens if you fail? normally i'm pretty good with -- i didn't know what to say. then i remembered one of the things i do is i only have one superstition. i do not get on an airplane unless i shine my shoes which means i know shoe shine people everywhere. you name the airport i cap tell you exactly where they are. when i go into a town i usually spend three or four days and i'm pretty visible. i was flying back from dallas and stopped to get my shoe shined. an elderly african-american man and he started to shine my shoes and he looks up and says are you that museum guy from washington? i said yeah. he doesn't say anything else. he shines may shoes. he finishes. i reach into my pocket. i hand him $8. he said to me, keep it for the useum. i got to be honest. this is a shoe shine man. i said to him you need this
money. take this money. he said to me don't be disrespectful. i got it. don't you realize even if i don't know exactly what's in a museum that maybe this museum might be the only place where my grandchildren get to understand what life did to me and what i did to life? so for me, this is not about building a beautiful building. the building is gorgeous. it's not about crafting exhibitions that will be ripe with education and technology though they will be. it is not even about finding harriet tubman's shawl or amazing material. what it's about, what that guy reminded me, is this museum is about making america better. it's about helping people understand who we once were, give people some context to understand the world we live in today, and maybe point us to what we can become. ultimately the national museum of african-american history
looks back and looks ahead. and with your support, as my youngest daughter said, once this museum opens, as long as there is an america there is a chance to tell this story. how humbling is that? thank you very much. [applause] i'm told that i can answer some questions. let me answer the first question right away. yes i'm a yankee fan. okay? let's get that out of the way. >> thank you so much for being here. i am so inspired right now for a variety of reasons. when i saw the picture before
the -- your talk started, i am a native washingtonian. i was trying to figure out how could you have the washington monument and the museum building in all that space? like where could it possibly be? so i'm so glad you showed us. i think that where it is is kind of a metaphor for something that's very important to me that you said. essentially that this is an american museum about the african-american experience but i've always believed that every american should embrace our istory as their own. that means so much to me that you said that. i think it is a very 21st century way of saying things and i am so appreciative of that. i saw you and others on c-span -- no, no. it was wonderful. the african-american -- a conference on african-american -- >> the future of the african-american past. >> yeah. i think history and culture but
anyway number of panels and so forth. i was just curious and this may be too much to ask this question since you just finished the building but are you anticipating sort of incorporating either satellite activities or you know for those of us who love washington for its museums it's so frustrating not to be able to be there as much as we could be. >> i think one of the issues we wrestled with was how do you -- how are you a really a 21st century museum? part of that is working collaboratively with institutions around the globe. via staff of 15 people whose job it is just to develop partnerships and corroborations. we have shared artifacts. we organized for example the african-american network of museums in florida. we have for example around the opening of the museum, we'll be doing watch parties in museums
around the country that will be able to tell this story. we'll craft traveling exhibitions. my belief is pretty clear. if we're successful and other institutions that care about african-american culture aren't then we failed. so we really want to make sure that we can take advantage of the technology that gives us opportunities to share and engage in ways that we couldn't 10, 15 years ago. our goal. >> first of all, i want to thank you for your talk. you had mentioned that in world war i you had found someone that had some diaries. and i'd like to say that right now this week i found my diaries of my father from world war i and we are in the process of translating them and are
going to perhaps send them to you. >> that is very exciting. thank you. that is wonderful. appreciate that. >> you're quite welcome. >> thank you. so excited. i'm a proud member. >> thank you. >> i received information the museum is opening on september 24. as soon as i got that i made my reservations for the hotel. but i haven't gotten any other information and i don't want to go there and not be able to participate so i want to know hat's happening. >> the joy of opening a museum is harder than building a museum. what we'll do is there is going to be a special event for members that you'll be receiving an invitation. i guess the save the dates are going out in the next two weeks. as you can imagine opening a
museum there are are 29 events between september 14 and september 24. hat will happen is on the 24th president obama will open the museum. will give the opening address. we will have -- we expect probably 25 to 50,000 people who will be there for the opening. as i said in the nacher interview the other day it is kind of like a mini inauguration. we're working now at how do you handle all the crowds and make this work? what i tell people is you want to be there for that moment, please come. you want to really enjoy the museum, come in october. just saying. that's what we're going to do. those of you who have been supporters will be hearing from us next week on, there will be a website that will go online. go live just about this. answering all the questions you may have. >> hi. this is a pleasure listening to you here today.
my name is louise. i sent you a copy of my plate of 44 presidents which i also sent to president barack obama. it would give me great pleasure at your lay be shown museum for the world to see. i have had many offers from producers on broadway and i turned the offers down because figured i need all races, everyone -- school, college, seniors, to see my plays and it's my plays on broadway they can't afford the tickets. it is such a historical piece of work i don't know if you got a chance to read it but i'd love when you have the time to just review it. and, please, call me. >> thank you very much. one of the joys have been the people have reached out and creativity. your play i remember my head of public programs has it right
now so we'll read it. kay? >> hi. i'm carol --. >> how are you, carol? >> good. great, actually. i've had the pleasure of working with lonnie bunch in the museum field. i have a question base onondaga my own family background of being japanese american and not learning the history of my family until i was a teenager. i was wondering, i was under the impression for most of my life that there were not many stories that were passed on in the african-american community about slavery. it was one generation, two generations too far back and now it seems you are discovering many stories and objects. what do you think has kept people from sharing stories or sharing stories beyond their families? or have they shared them with
their families? >> i think in some ways slavery in many cases the last great unmentionable, right? people are really ambivalent. there are people who i've had people come and say please don't talk about slavery because it's embarrassing. right? i personally believe i wish i was as strong as my enslaved ancestors. i think what has happened is the museum has given people license to share these stories. a lot were passed down but they were basically not the stories you wanted to share. so part of what we hope will happen candidly in this museum is while there are a lot of tories we want people to share we really want people to think differently about enslavement because it is a story that shaped us all. t is the story that shaped culture, and also shaped the african-american experience and today still shapes it.
so for us if we can illuminate the dark corners of enslavement then we will have done a major contribution. i think the museum is getting people to talk about those issues. your ink the fact institution really gives a lot confidence and hope to people because it is like being really respected and actually the exhibit saw about the japanese american interning camps at the american smithsonian museum it is the first time she ever talked about her experience in the camps. she felt it legitimized her story. that it was nothing to be embarrassed about. that she could tell her story after that exhibit came up. so thank you. >> my pleasure. thank you. it is good to see you again.
>> hi. it is a great pleasure to see you here. i think the last time i saw you they were doing your d.n.a. up in new york. at the other historical society. anyway i am a native of washington, d.c. i want to say one thing before i ask the question. in my family we weren't embarrassed about slavery. my great aunt said why do you want to talk about all that bad stuff? i don't want to talk about that. so it wasn't embarrassment. i think it was out of pain. i wanted to know because of that mentality, a lot of my friends say, was shared by their relatives, what are some of the things that you found besides the shawl? what were some of the other great things that you found of that kind? >> you mean of the period of
slavery? >> yes. >> i mean that you really want to talk about, this is a great find? >> well, i think everything. don't write -- you want to give it to this woman right behind there. she went to college with me. you better give it to her or she is going to get me. right there. let me answer the question first. okay? basically, i think that what we've realized is by asking people to share those stories we found things that are unbelievably powerful and positive. one of the things we found is, was a man named joseph tramell who lived in loudoun county just across the river in virginia and he gained his freedom in 1851. he had his freedom papers. he realized that that paper was the key to his future. he didn't want anything to happen to it. so he made what he called a tin wallet. a hand made piece of tin that he made in the shape of a box and the family told how every day he would put that paper in that tin wallet and took it
with him when he went to work because he didn't want sweat or anything to destroy it. and then every night he would come back and put it on the mantle piece and talk to his family and say, this is our future. the family kept that freedom paper and that tin wallet for four -- four generations then gave it us to. it is those kinds of things that really happened that i think changed the way we do things. carol? >> so, my question is, how do you -- what is the fine line -- you the stuff that talked about music and sports and segregation and the ku klux klan. your you decide what museum should have opposed to what's already in the museum of american history and, i mean, do you take the ku klux klan
outfit and bring it to your museum? where is the line? >> well, i think that because as i said this is my third smithsonian museum i thought the most important thing would be never to take everything and put it in one place. rather you want to craft each museum to say we're different portals into what it means to be an american. you might be able to go through the museum of american history. you might go through the smithsonian art museum or through our museum. the goal was never to take but to do something revolutionary for the smithsonian actually to talk to each other. and to begin to figure out how we develop programs and support fing. now, i collected the greensboro lunch counter one of the iconic artifacts in american history. i never want that to leave american history. so my goal was to say, we can find enough material so that we can have a rich story but you should also be able to see how american history talks about segregation. they may talk about it a little differently. or how does the native american
museum talk about their pride in being an american citizen which might be different than what we might do. so the goal is at the smithsonian might be the only place where you can get all those different portals into what it means to be an american. yes, ma'am? >> hi. i am a new york city educator and i'd like to talk a little bit about how we could incorporate what you're doing there into our curriculums because new york city is trying but we're not quite there yet. we know the gem we have here. our kids do come here as well as the new york historical society but how can we make a connection whether it's through the internet or otherwise with this new museum? >> you will already see so much of the educational productivity of my staff, so much of it's online. we've actually created online,
mid career rejuvenation for teachers. we've done courses on both online and actual on helping teachers explore difficult issues around race. we've created a variety of sort of interactive, what would you call them, virtual exhibitions that really could be used in the classroom. so the easiest thing to do is really go on our website and just hit education. there's an amazing amount of material there. my educators are really unbelievably gifted. and so i think that part of what we really tried to figure out is, what is educational within the museum and what education is there for those who will never come to the museum? you'll see a lot of that material there. yes? >> thank you so much for your talk. it is really exciting. my question is about what is about, what goes into the museum as far as contemporary history? we're in an historic time and
moments of history are happening every single day. so how does that process work in covering what's happening right now? >> what we do is the museum unlike most history museums will end about 2015. right? so that we've collected things like black lives matter that will be in the exhibition. but also what we do is every the er i meet with curators and say what is going on now we should collect for our colleagues 30, 40 years from now so we don't have to worry like when i started there were exhibitions i wanted to do but no collections. i want to make sure we actually have collected both political things but also cultural things. to make sure you collect materials from the new movie on matt turner or the birth of a nation. so we actually spend time looking at what we may not ever use but what the people who
follow us will use. it is an intrical part of what we do to plan for tomorrow as well as looking backwards. yes? hello. >> hi. i'm tiffany bradley, an art critic. i'd love to hear about how you see the opening in september fitting in with all that's going on on broadway, in fine arts, all of the discourse about race and social justice and how it interplayed with the art world. >> i think one of the things that is important for us that i didn't talk about is we have -- i have several fine art curators and of theater and film and they have a major role in the museum both in terms of exhibitions and also in terms of public programs so that we think that one of the great strengths of the smithsonian is that we're the great convener. we can pull everybody together. we expect to do a lot of that in the future.
i expect us to be one of the most vigorously public programming space in washington. what i'd like to do if someone has an extra $12 million is endow a series of public programs that would allow us to do things in washington and take them to five or six or seven other cities. we've really began to think about how that would happen. >> can you talk a bit about the logistics of getting all those objects in, start with the beginning and how do you work your way up to the last part of this? >> right now my staff is installing 4,000 artifacts, 4,000 photographs, 134 video pieces, and 27 interactives. o it is really a kind of
logistical planning. part of it is you basically have to get in the things that are really huge first. even before the building was segregated t in a railroad car that weighed 80 tons and a guard from angola prison and those will never be moved. whoever follows me is going to be cursing me for a long time but that is in the museum forever. part of the process is really looking at we have a detailed schedule of what exhibitions get installed at what time. nd the challenge is to basically get the cases in. get the graphics in. get the mounts to hold everything. get the material in. we have to put in the media stuff last because the media today is so sensitive to dust and everything so that comes in last so basically as i told the president when i had lunch with him the other day i said we may not be ready on the 23rd but on the 24th trust me we'll be
ready. so i think that it really is, and one of the great strengths is i have amazingly gifted people who have done this. imagine. normally when you do even a big museum you do four or five exhibitions. we're doing 11. i think it is partly living in chicago where the model is make no little plans. i think that people will be engaged but clearly my staff is flat out right now. thank you all so much. really appreciate it. >> thank you so very much for taking the time out of your extraordinarily busy schedule. thank you all so much for being here with us. we look forward to the opening of your depreat accomplishments.
>> coming up this weekend on american history tv on c-span 3 the abraham lifpblg presidential library foundation published a book of musings by public figures and ordinary americans celebrating or responding to lincoln's gettysburg address. the editor of the world responds to abraham lincoln's gettysburg address reads passages from the book tonight at 8:50 p.m. eastern. >> his presence still resonates from the words he has written and the artifacts and documents that he has left behind for our posterity. he was a simple, yet deeply complex man who looked at complex issues plainly and urely. he accepted and spoke the truth. many believe lincoln trans ended all presidents who serve before him and since. his great american story has reached and continues to reach across borders and oceans,
races, and religions. politics and party lines. >> then at 10:00 p.m. on real america the march in washington, on august 28, 1963, u.s. information agency filmed the march on washington for jobs and freedom and produced a documentary for foreign audiences. and sunday at 4:30 p.m. eastern, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the nasa viking landing on mars at nasa's langley research center historians recently discussed the viking program which landed the first u.s. spacecraft on mars on july 20, 1976. >> the events surrounding the week of july 20, 1976 were incredibly exciting. when the lander landed, it was almost powered up. and the team had programmed in two photographs to be taken so that they could be delivered fairly quickly back to earth for the press to see and for
nasa to be able to confirm that landers had in fact landed on mars. >> then at 8:00 p.m. eastern on the presidency, historians look at president harry truman's leadership and how he interacted with three prominent national politicians. secretary of state madeline albright speaks with historian michael beshloff about harry truman's commitment to public service as vice president and president. >> in his life this is someone who should have gone to college, great college, should have gone to graduate school. deeply wanted to. couldn't do it mainly because of his family's economic circumstances. and if there is one thing i think he felt strongly it was that when he became president, he wanted to help others. one of the ways he did that was to strengthen the community college system. >> for our complete american history tv schedule go to >> for our complete schedule, go to c-span.org. panel of: next, a
scholars looks at perceptions of women, both white and black, at the end of the simple war and during the reconstruction era. topics include how movies have shaped the historic idea of women had. also, a discussion of how southern women viewed themselves as revealed in personal journals. this was a part of the annual summer conference hosted by the gettysburg war institute. >> good afternoon. peter carmichael, member of the history department here at gettysburg college. i am also director of the civil war institute. it is my pleasure to welcome you to the panel discussion on reconstructing southern womanhood. i will introduce our panelists beginning of my far right -- judy,ing on my far right, a professor of history at villanova univers