Smithsonian picks black history museum site

/ Source: staff and news service reports

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be built on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Institution said Monday.

The National Mall features monuments to presidents and several museums that are part of the Smithsonian.

The black history museum “is in the mainstream of American history, and this site is in the mainstream of the other museums,” said Walter E. Massey, a Smithsonian board member.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who serves as chancellor of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, presided over the voice vote choosing the site.

Smithsonian officials said the five-acre site would likely include a 350,000 square-foot building. That would be comparable in size to the institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, also located on the mall.

“It will tell the stories of African-American culture from slavery through civil rights,” said Lonnie G. Bunch, the museum’s director.

Timetable: Less than 10 years
Officials hope to select a design firm and complete construction in less than a decade. The federal government is expected to cover half the cost, which could top $400 million, with the balance provided through private sources and public donations.

Roger W. Sant, chairman of the regents’ executive committee, cited the importance of the National Mall in the history of all Americans in the decision to locate the museum close to one of the nation’s most recognizable symbols. He promised that the design would be sensitive to the location.

President Bush signed legislation in 2003 calling for selection of a site for the museum. An advisory council considered three other sites in the capital.

Other museums dedicated to aspects of the African American experience that have opened in recent months or will open soon. In December, the Museum of the African Diaspora opened in downtown San Francisco, focusing on the ways in which all living people can trace their roots to the African continent.

The Northwest African American Museum, a planned 17,000-square foot structure, will open in Seattle in 2007, showcasing the historical and cultural experiences of blacks in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest.