The Smithsonian’s newest museum will not be open until 2015 but fundraising and membership drives are already underway. Oprah Winfrey is donating $12 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This is in addition to the $1 million she had previously given. The total $13 million donation is the largest contribution to date. The museum will have a 350-seat theater named after her. She is currently a member of the National Advisory Council.
Construction began on February 22, 2012, on National Mall in Washington D.C. It is on a five-acre tract, next to the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. The estimated total cost will be $500 million. The U.S. government is providing one-half the funding, and private donations totaling $140 million have been raised. Membership letters were mailed inviting people to become charter members. Accompanying the letter was a brochure showing photographs of famous African-Americans and includes information about what the museum plans to offer. It will not be just about famous people but will focus on stories and “history that must be remembered.” It is to be a museum for every American.
The Founding Director, Lonnie G. Bunch, has said the museum is in talks with Winfrey to acquire various memorabilia from her career to add the collection already topping 22,000 objects. Harriet Tubman’s shawl, a segregated railroad car from the Jim Crow era, and Nat Turner’s Bible are some of the items in the collection. The most recent acquisition has been a South Carolina slave cabin from the 19th century.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Museum Correspondent