National Museum of African American History and Culture: What to Know

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution will welcome visitors later this month.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is set to open its doors to the public in the nation’s capital on Sept. 24, 2016. ABC News is taking you inside the museum to preview the space before opening day. But before you go, here is what you need to know.

The Basics


The effort to build the museum began over 100 years ago in 1915 and included the efforts of presidents and Congress. The 400,000-square-foot museum sits on the National Mall at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 14th Street, across from the Washington Monument. It includes 12 inaugural exhibitions grouped around three main themes: history, community and culture and include an exhibit about the museum’s evolution.

The unique style of the museum stands in stark contrast to the other marble and columned buildings along the National Mall. The three-tiered building boasts 70,000 square feet of bronze-colored cast-aluminum outer panels weighing 230 tons. The museum is open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas Day.

What's Inside


The museum includes an education and technology center, cafe, museum store, a welcome center, orientation theater, a contemplative court and the Oprah Winfrey Theater. The theater is named after Winfrey in recognition of her total contribution of $13 million to the museum. The 350-seat theater is one of the largest spaces in the museum where visitors can listen to performers, scholars and leaders to gain a better understanding of African-American history and culture.

When the museum was established in 2003, it did not have a single artifact, a site in Washington, D.C., or architect, according to the Smithsonian Institute. When the museum opens later this month, it will have on display more than 3,000 artifacts.

How to Visit


The opening of the museum is attracting a high number of visitors. As a result, the museum is offering timed passes to the general public to offer a smooth visit for self-guided tours. Tickets are sold out for opening weekend and through the month of October. There are six passes available per order and every visitor, including infants, need a timed pass, which are free. Each timed pass has a unique entry code and can only be used once.

Get tickets to The National Museum of African American History and Culture


The museum is cautioning visitors to be prepared for large crowds and extended wait times. A free three-day festival will mark the museum’s opening on Friday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 25., and will include President Obama and the first lady. The president will deliver remarks during the museum ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 24, and will be joined by distinguished guests, including former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush. The occasion will include readings of African-American literature and musical performances, as well as a performance by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.

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