Since this past weekend was my second time visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture ( NMAAHC) down in Washington, D.C., I decided now was as good a time as any to share my experience with the museum and my thoughts on it.
my first time
I first visited NMAAHC in April and it was such a highly anticipated trip seeing as how it was a birthday gift to myself and I had been waiting for months to see what so many had been raving about.
Although the museum is free, because the museum recently opened in September, you need to reserve visitor passes months in advance in order to get into the museum on a day of your choosing. Yes, you are able to book same day tickets, but there is a chance you won’t be able to secure tickets for the day and who wants to travel to D.C. soley for the purpose of visiting this museum only to not be able to get in? not i.
Therefore, while I was still in Japan, I made sure to reserve my free tickets for my family and I back in February. It was absolutely worth it.
Before I visited NMAAHC I heard many things from people about how different it was , how it wasn’t like a regular museum and was more of a collection and that the museum won’t be like anything I expected. And everything they said was right… it was so much better than anything I could ever expect!
This museum is SO well done. From the unique structure of the building, to the collections that are on display, to the abundance of information presented. It is EXCELLENCE! We got there for 10:30am, 30 mins after the museum opened and instantly headed downstairs to the concourse levels that houses the history of african americans. It is advised to work your way from the bottom of the museum to the top, but I feel like it’s alright to visit the galleries on the 3rd and 4th floor before going to the concourse level, as those galleries display the contributions african americans have made to american society, while the concourse focuses more on the history of blacks in America in a chronological order.
We followed the advice of others and explored the concourse/history levels first and it was amazing. There was way too much information to take in all in one go, which was absolutely fine (we’ll just have to come back). Thankfully, the moment we went down there was a tour starting that led through the first concourse level. Now I’m making this sound all easy breezy, but I want to reiterate that this museum requires timed entry passes, which means that they are trying to manage the crowds, which means this place gets packed. and at 10:45am, the concourse levels were sooooo full that we were moving at a snail’s pace to get through to a display case. Luckily everyone was in good spirits and just happy to be there so people were extra patient.
The tour was amazing and I believe our tour guide’s name was Jasmine and she provided a ton of information. It was a great introduction to the museum and I highly recommend hoping on one if you’re like me and become scatter-brained when you’re too excited and there is a lot going on. After the tour of the first concourse, we explored the next 2 floors over the next few hours. Then we had lunch and finally went up to the gallery floors. We went to the 4th floor and probably 20 mins after we got there we heard the notification that the museum was about to close! Instead of rushing through the rest of the floors we decided to visit the gift shop. The gift shop was full of books, apparel, home decor, and toys. You could definitely find something for everyone in there.
One of the things I was most excited to try out was the cafe! We all know that cafe’s in museum are so expensive but also the food is pretty boring. What I loved about the Sweet Home Cafe was that the food prepared was reflective of the food prepared by African Americans all over America. They have different stations such as the The Agricultural South, The Creole Coast, The North States, and The Western Range that represent each region African Americans settled in and the foods prepared by the groups who lived there. Just look at the menu and tell me you’re not salivating! I wish I had a photo, but I’ll tell you now I had the shrimp and grits and it was so good. I highly recommend eating at the cafe at least once!
I remember after leaving the museum feeling so full and so happy and wanting more. I was a little concerned that the museum would be a bit depressing as it explored the history of blacks in this country. However, I walked away feeling so proud to come from survivors. I believe the way the museum was curated and designed to flow so effortlessly into the next era of black history or black contributions, I didn’t have that moment to feel so overwhelmed with sadness and grief. It was like within all of the mess and destruction of a people that was presented, you could see the resilience and defiance of the black community in everything. It was all so empowering!
things that need improving
As stated the museum is very crowded and is such a hot spot, but if you are not a fan of crowds, you need to be warned that it is very packed and may cause discomfort. I’m glad that the museum is very organized and seems to be very good at crowd management, but you will find that there are A LOT of lines. Lines to get into the museum, lines to get onto the elevator, lines to get into the concourse levels, lines to wait for food, a bathroom line, a line to get in and out of the gift shop. You catch my drift. There are a lot of lines, but I appreciate that they are trying to minimize chaos and ensure that visitors have a good experience. All in all, the positives far outweigh the “negatives” and I would look at this as a small blip in the grand scheme of things.
Well, that’s all folks! That’s my take on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. If you haven’t been to visit the museum, I HIGHLY recommend that you do! It looks like the museum is releasing free tickets for this November, tomorrow August 2nd at 9pm Eastern Standard Time!! Check out the website, reserve your ticket and make a weekend trip out of it! It’s all worth it!