WASHINGTON — The National Museum of African American History and Culture opening this weekend in Washington took more than a decade to build. A look at some of the key milestones in its construction:
Dec. 16, 2003
President George W. Bush signs legislation creating the museum. Early on, it is scheduled to open in 2011. It is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, half of which will come from Congress and the rest from donations. The idea for museum and memorial traces back to 1915 and a group of African-American Civil War veterans.
March 14, 2005
Lonnie G. Bunch III is named founding director of the museum. Before taking the job, he served as the president of the Chicago Historical Society. He had also worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History from 1989 to 2000 and at the California Afro-American Museum in Los Angeles from 1983 to 1989. His appointment is effective July 2005.
Jan. 31, 2006
The Smithsonian’s Board of Regents selects the museum’s site on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. A total of four spots had been considered: two on the mall and two off the mall. The other site on the Mall was the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. President Bush had endorsed a site on the Mall.
March 27, 2009
Officials unveil six design concepts proposed for the future museum. One concept includes a design with wetlands extending inside the museum. Another proposed design is oval-shaped.
April 14, 2009
The Smithsonian selects a winning architectural concept for the museum. The design is inspired by an African headdress, and a bronze screen that wraps the building taking inspiration from metalwork in the South. The lead designer is David Adjaye, who was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and whose parents are from Ghana.
March 10, 2010
The museum announces it will receive about 40 objects connected to abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, including Tubman’s favorite hymnal and a shawl given to her by Queen Victoria. The donation coincides with the 97th anniversary of Tubman’s death on March 10, 1913.
Feb. 22, 2012
President Barack Obama helps break ground for the museum, calling it “not just a record of tragedy, but a celebration of life.” He is joined by his wife, Michelle Obama, and former first lady Laura Bush. The ceremony is hosted by actress Phylicia Rashad, who played Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” Curators estimate that they have collected 15,000 to 20,000 artifacts for the museum.
May 14, 2013
The museum announces that it has acquired an object that will become a centerpiece of the collection: a slave cabin. The two-room cabin is from a former cotton plantation on Edisto Island in coastal South Carolina. It is taken apart board by board so it can be transported. “The reason we collect a cabin like this is it allows you to humanize the slavery experience,” museum director Lonnie Bunch says at the time.
June 11, 2013
The museum announces a $12 million gift from Oprah Winfrey and says that the museum’s 350-seat theater will be named after her. Winfrey had also given $1 million in 2007. Other major donors with recognizable names include: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” fame, and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, who has donated millions to other high-profile Washington projects. The museum is projected to cost $500 million.
Nov. 17, 2013
The museum installs its first artifacts: a Jim Crow-era railroad car and prison guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The objects are so large they have to be hoisted in by cranes as the museum is being built. The railroad car weighs 77 tons. The tower is approximately 21 feet tall and 14 feet wide.
April 14, 2015
The first of the 3,600 bronze-colored screen panels surrounding the building are installed. The panels are inspired by ironwork created by slaves in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina. The initial plan was for the panels to be made of bronze. After that was found to be too expensive and too heavy, designers eventually settled on aluminum finished to look like bronze.
June 3, 2015
A construction worker working on the roof of the museum dies in a construction accident. He is identified as 35-year-old Ivan Smyntyna of Roswell, Georgia.
Sept. 24, 2016
President Barack Obama will speak at the dedication of the museum, the Smithsonian’s 19th.