Author: rebeccanelson1

About rebeccanelson1

Currently a PhD student at the University of Hull, part of a project concerning the usable past of anti-slavery movements for the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation. My research interests lie in what is the role of the museum and how museums confront difficult or controversial histories and relay them to their audiences. I will be conducting research in museums to investigate how historic collections are employed by museums in encouraging visitors to engage not just with narratives of the past but also contemporary issues.

‘A Museum for all Americans’

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or… some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

These are powerful words, spoken by Barak Obama in his final speech as US President in January 2017. They echoed loudly when delivered in that speech, which marked one of the most significant regime changes in the political history of America, but they echo louder still etched into the wall of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington DC. This is where I saw them, in the final display of the museum’s history galleries, opposite a case filled with objects celebrating the achievements of America’s first president of African descent. In a museum that has been in the making for over one hundred years, these words are an affirmation of the achievement that the NMAAHC is.

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One of the quieter displays in the museum explores the making of the NMAAHC. It was here where I really realised what a huge achievement the very existence of the museum is to African American communities across America.

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