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Department Spotlight

Students Visit New National Museum of African American History and Culture History and film students find inspiration at new museum and other DC sites.

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Producing the Historical Documentary students with NMAAHC Director Lonnie Bunch.

College of Arts and Sciences double-alum Lonnie Bunch (BA history ’74 and MA history ’76) is opening the doors of the Smithsonian’s newest and highly acclaimed museum to AU students.

Students in this spring’s Producing the Historical Documentary class recently visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where Bunch is the founding director. Bunch greeted the students when they arrived, and then curators Mary Elliot and Rex Ellis led them on tours of the museum’s collections.

The Producing the Historical Documentary course challenges students to produce a five-minute historical documentary on a subject related to the African American experience. The visit to the NMAAHC gave students behind-the-scenes information and access to the museum’s world-class collections and scholarship.

“The visit was part of an informal collaboration between AU and the NMAAHC, designed to allow students to view objects and exhibits as inspiration and possibly content for their documentaries,” said CAS’s University Professor of History Alan Kraut, who co-teaches the class with School of Communication Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts Maggie Stogner. “It was developed as part of American University’s ongoing relationship with the museum and its founding director Lonnie Bunch, who is also an AU alum and a former student of mine in our Department of History.”

Historical Documentary students with curator Mary Elliot

Curator Mary Elliott with students.

Stogner said the students were warmly greeted at the museum by Bunch and museum curators. “It is the beginning of an excellent partnership. The curators are very enthusiastic about our students in the film and media arts and history departments creating short documentaries.”

Kraut praised Bunch and the museum staff for offering the country a rich contribution to the history of the United States and the African American experience. “I look forward to an ongoing collaboration between the NMAAHC and American University faculty and students," he said.

Historical Documentary students with curator Rex Ellis

Curator Rex Ellis and students.

Next Stop: Historical Sites in DC
The class doesn’t stop at the NMAAAC. Students also visited the Library of Congress, where they learned about all of the historical resources available to them. And later in the semester, they will tour important sites in African American history in the DC area, led by Edward Smith, assistant anthropology professor and founder and co-director of the American University Civil War Institute.