By Kate Oczypok | October 14, 2016 | Culture
Before you plan a trip to the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture—the only one of its kind in the U.S. dedicated solely to African American culture, history, and life—here are a few things to know ahead of time.
Due to its historic nature, coupled with the worldwide interested it’s garnered, the museum operates strictly on a free advanced timed entry policy. Unfortunately, tickets are sold out through March 2017, but a limited number of same-day passes are available for those willing to try their luck.
Lead designer David Adjaye and lead architect Philip Freelon won an international competition in 2009 to create the groundbreaking five-acre space, with construction commencing three years later in February 2012. Visitors can walk across the welcoming porch, which draws from the architecture of Africa and the African Diaspora, before entering the museum. After going inside the base of the structure, influenced by classical Greco-Roman style, guests can explore the three-tiered bronze-colored metal lattice inspired by the crowns used in West African Yoruban art and that Adjaye created to pay tribute to ironwork made by enslaved African Americans. Additionally, due to the exposure to exterior daylight, the building is slated to become the first Smithsonian museum to achieve LEED Gold certification.
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Visitors can peruse artifacts that explore topics like slavery, freedom, segregation, military, and beyond at the museum. Fans of the legendary Muhammad Ali can see a terry cloth robe emblazed with the champ's name along with the headgear he wore while training at the 5th Street Gym in Miami. See a candid black-and-white photo of Martin Luther King Jr. resting in Memphis in 1966 after the March Against Fear at the Lorraine Motel—the very same motel where the revolutionary activist and minister was assassinated almost two years later. Or, see the sparkly aluminum mesh dress worn by En Vogue member Terry Ellis in the band’s music video “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).”
Helmed by Executive Chef Jerome Grant, the museum’s 12,000-square-foot eatery, Sweet Home Café, features all locally-sourced ingredients and is comprised of four stations meant to tell regional stories through food. Diners can traverse the Agricultural South and try dishes like the Lexington-style barbecue pork sandwich with slaw and pickled watermelon rind, or head to the North States to tuck into a smoked haddock and corn croquets dish with gribiche sauce and housemade brown bread. Other options include the Western Range’s empanada comprised of black eye peas, golden corn, and chanterelle mushrooms, and the Creole Coast’s pan-fried Louisiana catfish po' boy with smoked red pepper rémoulade and green bean pickles.