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.
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In college and graduate school I trained as an urban historian, specializing in the 19th century. And while I taught history at several universities, I fell in love with museums, especially the Smithsonian Institution. I like to say that I am the only person who left the Smithsonian twice—and returned. I began my career as a historian at the National Air and Space Museum. Then I became a curator at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. From there I returned to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and then I led the Chicago Historical Society. And now I am back once again.