National Museum of African American History and Culture Launches New Digital “Searchable Museum” Initiative


The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has launched its latest digital initiative, the Searchable Museum. As part of the museum’s fifth anniversary, the NMAAHC continues to engage audiences around the world with online exhibits, virtual symposia and digital programs.

The searchable museum extends beyond museum walls to provide a rich digital experience that includes a multimedia presentation of the historical narratives, collections and educational resources of the NMAAHC. In the works for over a year, the Searchable Museum initiative is one of the museum’s largest digital ventures, bringing the museum’s evocative content and the immersive experience of in-person visitors to homes around the world. The Searchable Museum is made possible by the generous support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Searchable Museum’s use of emerging technologies and scientific expertise allows the NMAAHC to draw inspiration from the transformative narrative structure and tone of its gallery experience while providing virtual visitors with the opportunity to explore the content of exposure at their own pace. Whether someone hasn’t been able to visit it yet or wants to relive their time at the museum, Searchable Museum offers people the opportunity to engage in the museum’s exhibits by delving deeper into African American history and culture. .

The project’s first digital exhibit to be shared on the site is the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibit, a fundamental feature of the museum’s David M. Rubenstein history galleries, completely redesigned for the digital space.

“By bringing together the latest technology and harnessing the academic and educational experience of the museum teams, the Searchable Museum tells the complex story of our country’s history in a way that only the National Museum of History and Culture African Americans can do, “said Kevin Young, Museum Director Andrew W. Mellon. “This ongoing project offers a chance for Americans to realize our shared past, bringing the unique museum experience to their homes and to their phones. Allowing the public to virtually revisit the original struggle for American freedom in the exhibition “Slavery and Freedom” reminds us of the centrality of the African-American journey to the American experience – a story of triumph, resilience and joy over the years. centuries. With this launch, we look forward to continuing the museum’s awareness and digital efforts. “

The exhibition has been transformed into an online experience combining existing and newly created digital collection assets, digitized exhibition content, multimedia components, such as 3D models, audio videos and podcasts, and audio technologies. cutting edge to offer an innovative, virtual exhibition. The site will also be responsive to user interests, providing opportunities for inquiry on specific topics via links to online content and related educational resources, allowing new artefacts from the museum’s collections to be shared for the first time.

Similar to the in-person exhibit, the virtual exhibit explores the history of slavery and freedom – the heart of America’s founding – beginning in the 14th century and ending with Civil War and Reconstruction. Through first-person narratives and artefacts, the exhibit examines the economic and political legacy of the creation of modern slavery and the concept of freedom, both of which were the basis of the development of the United States. . Most importantly, it considers the resistance, resilience, and survival of enslaved African Americans as they fought to retain their humanity in inhumane conditions and the contributions of free and enslaved African Americans to building it. America. Throughout the exhibit, users will virtually experience recreations of landmark moments and objects from the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibit in the David M. Rubenstein History Galleries:

  • The historic elevator transports visitors back to the present time in the early 1400s through images from different centuries and the powerful words of Maya Angelou.
  • The Slave Ships of the Transatlantic Slave Trade displays several names and statistics of the more than 40,000 slave ships that crossed the Atlantic and first-person accounts of the transatlantic slave trade.
  • The Domestic Slave Trade features excerpts from slave bills of sale and auction, highlighting the names of enslaved African Americans, descriptors and ratings, as well as quotes from WPA slave accounts.
  • The Freedom Paradox depicts Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson surrounded by the names of the 609 people he enslaved over the course of his life, along with statistical data and quotes that help shed light on the paradox. of the nation.
  • The Sugar Pot features a rustic plantation sugar pot surrounded by ornate silver objects and production and mortality statistics – a visual narrative of the juxtaposition of profit and power and human cost.
  • The Cotton Tower – an iconic cotton tower on the museum floor – is associated with images from the pre-war period and a brief narrative examining the slave trade and the product of their labor, cotton as the engine. trade, violence the daily life of slaves and the wealth they generated.
  • The Point of Pines Slave Hut, one of the two remaining slave huts on Edisto Island, South Carolina, housed African-American slaves on the Point of Pines plantation, and then went on to served as home to African Americans once enslaved after the Civil War until the 1980s. It was photographed as a 3D experience for a first look inside the cabin.

The website also offers special content that will take users behind the scenes of the museum’s work and share detailed links between the stories told in the museum exhibits:

  • Lesser Known Stories: Presents the stories of people, places and events of historical significance that are not often told, including new studies and discoveries in the field.
  • Present to Past: Presents various themes related to the Black experience through a timeline linking the present to the past and connecting contemporary experiences to the events of the period of slavery in the nation, demonstrating the obstacles and continued progress of the America as a nation.
  • How we know what we know: a behind-the-scenes look at the resources and methodologies that help the museum understand, authenticate and preserve the history presented, including oral history, archeology, statistical data, archives , genealogy, conservation and more. The feature includes brief videos of museum practitioners and academics providing insight into their day-to-day work.
  • The Constellation: Users encounter a central object, theme or image that opens up stories related to African American history and culture, illuminating the focal point in a new light. Connection points emanate from the constellation, including quotes, videos, items, podcasts, and stories from descendants and community.
  • Resource page: Accessible museum and external links to relevant information on the themes presented on the website, enhancing the content shared in the virtual exhibit. The webpage includes access to podcasts, digital humanities databases and websites, videos, blog posts, collection stories, oral histories, academic presentations and links to repositories additional history and culture and historic sites.

The museum will continue to update and expand the searchable museum with new content, ultimately bringing all of its exhibits online. In spring 2022, the museum plans to launch the exhibition “Making a Way Out of No Way” on the Searchable Museum platform.

Accessible to, the website is free and does not require registration or registration to use it.


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