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American Alliance of Museums Honors National Museum of African American History and Culture With Chair’s Leadership Award

Category: Press Release


May 1, 2017

Image of a distinguished man in a suit with glasses
Lonnie G. Bunch III

Arlington, VA–The American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, announced today that it will present the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) with AAM’s Chair’s Leadership Award. The award is not presented annually; rather, it is reserved for rare occasion of outstanding leadership and extraordinary accomplishments in the museum field.

“The Chair’s Leadership Award acknowledges not only the museum’s exceptional collections, programs, design and visitor experience but also the persistence of the many champions who pushed for decades to make it a reality,” said AAM’s Board Chair, Douglas Jones. A representative of NMAAHC will accept the award during the opening session of the Alliance’s Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in St. Louis on May 8.

The only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture, NMAAHC was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. It offers 85,000 square feet of exhibition space, nearly 3000 objects, 12 exhibitions,15 interactives, 130 videos and 11 audio programs housed on five floors of exhibition space.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony, museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III said, “We remember so all who encounter the museum will understand American history through an African-American lens, and realize just how central African American history and culture is to America’s sense of self.”

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Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), who advocated for 28 years in Congress to get the museum funded and built, explained at the dedication ceremony that NMAAHC was the vision of black Civil War veterans and their supporters who gathered in Washington, DC in 1916. “Most could not read the Declaration of Independence or even write their names, but in their hearts burned an enduring vision of true democracy that no threat of death could ever erase. They understood the meaning of their contribution, and they set a possibility in motion–passed down through the ages from heart to heart and breath to breath–that we are giving birth to today.”President Barack Obama said at the dedication, “Hopefully this museum can help us talk to each other. And more importantly, listen to each other.  And most importantly, see each other.  Black and white and Latino and Native American and Asian American─see how our stories are bound together. And bound together with women in America, and workers in America, and entrepreneurs in America, and LGBT Americans.”

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Joseph Klem
Director, Public Relations
American Alliance of Museums

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