Louisiana artifacts loaned to new African American museum

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- At the Smithsonian Institution’s newest museum, history and culture collide.

The good, the bad, the honorable, and the inspirational -- so many aspects of the African American experience are on display here. But it didn’t come together easily.

“It’s the only one of our buildings constructed without a pre-existing collection," explained David Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian.

It took 13 years, but now, visitors will be able to see 3,000 artifacts in 12 inaugural exhibits.

“Virtually all the objects housed within it were donated by people eager to share parts of their own history with the public," said Skorton.

And that includes the folks from the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches. Dr. Susan Dollar sits on the board of the association, which loaned two artifacts to the museum.

“One of the artifacts is a plantation bell. It was originally at Bertrand Plantation and ended up at our property – the Kate Chopin House in Cloutierville," explained Dollar. "The other artifact is a shackle worn by a slave. It still opens and operates.”

But slavery is just one part of African American history and of this museum.

“The important thing about this museum is it doesn’t stop with slavery. It moves far beyond the shackles – all the way to Chuck Berry’s car and beyond. So it’s a celebration of the human spirit, and it’s a reminder of the darker side of the human spirit, and why we should not revisit that," she said.

Visitors can see these artifacts, as well as all the other exhibits, when the museum opens to the public on Saturday, October 24th.

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