EXPLORE A NEW MUSEUM
English, Reading, Social Studies
Terms related to the building itself as well as to the African-American experience inform vocabulary development. In the Know provides 12 terms to build upon.
While students read the articles reprinted in the resource PDFs in this curriculum guide or linked to in these suggested activities, they could be asked to compile personal lists of words with which they are unfamiliar. These terms could be worked on individually through flashcards (definition and pronunciation on one side, word in a sentence on the other side) or pooled to create a class vocabulary list.
Read a Floor Plan
Reading, Social Studies, Visual Literacy
Students are given floor plans prepared by the NMAAHC and The Washington Post to compare and contrast the renderings. Give students Read a Floor Plan.
As an application of this activity, students might be asked to prepare a floor plan of your school. Back-to-School Night also offers opportunity for students to prepare the path their parents/guardians should take to their classes. Students could also prepare a floor plan and a short narrative for a redesign of your school’s use of the building’s footprint. Swimming pool, bowling alley or expanded laboratories, anyone?
What Will You See at the New Museum?
Social Studies, U.S. History
KidsPost gives younger students — and their teachers and parents — a quick overview of the objects, documents, photographs and stories to be experienced in a visit. Read “African Americans have shaped history, and history has shaped them.” Teachers show students the NMAAHC website after reading the article. The Washington Post also has covered the new museum in many articles in print and online.
What Does It Take to Build a Museum?
Architecture, Geography, Media Literacy, Social Studies, U.S. History
The Smithsonian Institution and the media used many approaches to introduce the NMAAHC to the public. Review and read the following, respond to and discuss the questions posed, compare and contrast them.
>>Timelapse of construction of National Museum of African American History and Culture
>>Read “A 100-Year Quest: John Lewis spent 15 years fighting for the museum — now the dream is realized.” Lewis presents a personal narrative of the museum’s history. Discussion questions could include:
• What credentials and experience give John Lewis authority to address this topic?
• Who first suggested a museum “to commemorate the deeds” … and celebrate the contribution to America of black Americans.
• Why does Lewis believe this museum deserves to be on the Mall?
• Summarize what Lewis says about a “post-racial society.”
• In what way does the Declaration of Independence claim that “each and every one of us has a divine legacy that nothing and no one can take away” remain a fact and a promise,” according to Lewis? What do students think about this concept?
>>Teachers may refer students to a timeline of milestones in the building of the museum. This timeline begins in 2003 with legislation rather than the 1916 date that Lewis refers to.
The timelapse (visual documentation) and Lewis’s personal essay, might be compared and contrasted to the Smithsonian’s official account of the creation of the NMAAHC.
If students wonder how did they get the large artifacts, such as a guard tower or railway car, into the museum, read “Rail car and prison tower are first artifacts to arrive at African American museum on the mall” and view the photographs.
Several approaches may be taken to introduce a new building, building renovation or expansion of a school’s facilities. Review the approaches used to introduce the latest Smithsonian Institution museum to the public. How might your broadcast or other students modify one or more of them to use for your school or community?
Dedicate a Museum
English, Government, Social Studies, U.S. History
The NMAAHC was dedicated on September 24, 2016: Vocal and instrumental music, speeches, quoted reminders of the African American experience and voices, and bells chiming from churches citywide — and across America — joining the Freedom Bell from the historic First Baptist church in Williamsburg, Va.
President Obama was one of several speakers at the dedication ceremony. Others included former President George W. Bush, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. Give students President Obama’s remarks to read and discuss.
• What passage did they find most interesting?
• He makes a number of allusions. To which do they relate?
• What does he mean by “the best history takes us outside the glass case.”?
• What do they understand about the MNAAHC and America’s history from his remarks?
Use Obama speech for scavenger hunt for items to which he refers. He refers to many of the images found on the “cards” in “Artifacts Narrate a Story.”
Think Like a Reporter
Journalism, Media Literacy
National and D.C. area media companies as well as the Smithsonian Institution worked to create informative articles, informational graphics and press releases to inform the public about the new museum on the National Mall. How might your students act as the scholastic media that will inform your school’s staff and student body of this new museum?
The Post’s Going Out Guide provided “Four ways to experience the new African American Museum. Since there is so much to see in both the History and the Culture floors, they provide four itineraries for your consideration.
Give students Think Like a Reporter: Share Special Events and Opportunities. Get ideas for the student media to cover the NMAAHC and other local special events.
What Happens When Google Gets Involved?
Media Literacy, Social Studies, Technology, U.S. History
The headlines read “Google brings interactive display to African American history museum.” Readers learned that that verb tense should have been future tense.
“Google employees have since been developing interactive-display technology that will allow visitors to examine artifacts from all angles using 3-D scans that they access through their smartphone’s Web browser. Their phone will also serve up relevant multimedia content, such as text or video, that better explains the artifacts and their significance to African American history.
“McPhail said that the technology aims to solve a persistent challenge for museums: only a fraction of their artifacts are on display at any one time. Historic objects must be specially handled and maintained, making it difficult for the museum to put out too many at once. There is also finite physical space.
“The technology eliminates those limitations.
Teachers are encouraged to brainstorm with students how they would display artifacts, angles to show; backstory, use and historic and/or significance of the object; ways to achieve interactivity. BUT you and they will have to wait until Spring 2017 for this feature to be ready.