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Public Affairs, School of
Kerwin Hall

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Alumni Success Story

Alum to Bring National Museum of African American History and Culture to Life 

By Sally Acharya

Lonnie Bunch

To bring a museum to life is a historic challenge, particularly when it will be part of the Smithsonian and will grace the last available spot on the National Mall. That’s the task of Lonnie Bunch, CAS/BA ’74, CAS/MA ’76, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The renowned educator and historian is spearheading everything from raising $500 million to selecting an architect to creating a collection virtually from scratch.

The museum won’t be on the Mall for years, but is now traveling around the country in a program called Save Our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative. Experts encourage people around the nation to look in attics and closets for heirlooms and find out how to preserve and protect them. The best may even end up in the Smithsonian, along with finds that include two slave cabins and a fighter plane flown by World War II’s famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Help build the collections

The museum is also collecting history in the form of memories. A “virtual Memory Book” allows online visitors to add and view memories in an interactive Web site (see NMAAHC link in Connections).

Bunch’s biggest challenge: “How do we create an institution worthy of the Smithsonian? Even more important, how can we create an institution worthy of the African American experience? If we can do that, that’s success.”