new heavyweight

The Monday part of our weekend trip with our parents was a visit to the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture. I didn't know much about the museum what to expect, and I think I expected more of an art museum than a history museum (though the history is more interesting to me, personally.) I wasn't prepared for the heaviness or emotional effect of it. (Though for whatever its worth, I'm not sure it had that same effect on everyone in our group.) Though the exhibit space and presentation isn't particularly well designed, it is overloaded with info starting from the origins of slavery. Perhaps I'm more naive or sheltered that I would like to think, but it was a day of neverending "okay I knew about this, but I had no idea that…" moments. The feeling that hung with me throughout the exhibit was similar to when I've visited Holocaust museums, because the museum is really, as writer Susan Glaser described it, a collection of "difficult truths." The museum was designed as a collaboration by Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates and Davis Brody. The highlight is easily the exterior decorative scrim pattern on what is called the corona, said by the museum to be based on ironwork made by slaves and patterns found in southern communities like Charleston and New Orleans. Apparently it was originally meant to be done in bronze, but after some controversy was eventually done in coated aluminum as a cost cutting measure. There's a lot to see and take in. I was only able to skim the last decades in the history section and never even got to the cultural sections that lie above, but its a worthwhile and enlightening, if heavy, visit when in DC. (Also a possibly lesser known tip: Veterans and Military can get in without timed reservation passes that you have to get long in advance, as long as the museum isn't near capacity. We planned the trip for September because it was the soonest we could get tickets several months ago, but we had gotten one pass too few. It turned out we didn't need them at all because Dad had his military ID. Also: it's cold in there, take a jacket.)