National Museum of African American History and Culture celebrates one year

National Museum of African American History and Culture exterior by Michael Barnes

National Museum of African American History and Culture exterior. (photo: Michael Barnes)

It’s been one year since bells tolled along the East Coast, welcoming the newest Smithsonian to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Since then, the museum has attracted more than 3 million people of all races, colors and creed from across the nation and around the world—averaging about 8,000 visitors daily.

“This has become more than a museum. This has become a pilgrimage site,” said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in an interview with The Associated Press.

The one-year celebration is highlighting the various aspects of African-American history through music, dance and storytelling. Exhibits at the museum range from the glass-topped casket used to bury lynching victim Emmett Till to a fedora owned by late pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Many of the artifacts come from people’s homes and personal collections—like freed slave Joseph Trammel’s tin wallet, handmade to protect his freedom papers.

“Because you have these collections, it allows people to open up and to share stories to find memories,” Bunch told the AP. “I’ve heard many times people say, ‘I forgot, but once I saw a segregated door or once I saw that washboard it brought back those memories.’”

Unlike other museums, the National African American Museum of History and Culture encourages people to leave something behind when they visit through a feature they call Visitor Voices, an area where people can talk about life as an African-American in the United States.

More than 8,000 people roam the museum’s halls daily, twice the amount that organizers had originally anticipated.