April 17, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History goes digital

With the tap of a button, the museum experience is available on your laptop or smartphone.

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed millions of visitors through its doors since opening in 2016. Now, millions more can visit with the tap of a button.

On Nov. 18, the museum launched its latest digital initiative, the Searchable Museum. The digital platform is aimed at capturing the in-house experience of the museum, and sharing it with anyone, anywhere who has access to a laptop, smartphone or other digital device.

“This ongoing project provides a chance for Americans to realize our shared past, bringing the unique museum experience to their homes and on their phones,” said museum director Kevin Young.

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The digital project’s first exhibition is called “Slavery and Freedom.” It’s based on an exhibition of the same name in the museum’s David M. Rubenstein History Galleries. Users will virtually experience recreations of striking moments from the gallery exhibition:

•  The History Elevator transports visitors back in time from the present to the early 1400s through images accompanied by the powerful words of Maya Angelou.

•  Slave Ships of the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers first-person accounts of the slave trade as well as information about the 40,000 slave ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

•  The Domestic Slave Trade features excerpts from bills of sale and slave auction broadsides, highlighting the names of enslaved people.

•  The Paradox of Liberty depicts Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, surrounded by the names of the 609 people he enslaved over his lifetime.

The digital version of the exhibition expands on the physical one. It offers videos, audio podcasts and a newly-created digital collection. And it allows users to dive deeper into areas of interest via links to related online content and educational resources.

“Allowing the public to virtually revisit the originating struggle for American freedom in the ‘Slavery and Freedom’ exhibition reminds us of the centrality of the African American journey to the American experience — a story of triumph, resilience and joy over the centuries. With this launch, we look forward to continuing the museum’s digital outreach and efforts,” said Young.

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“By marshalling the latest technology and harnessing the scholarly and educational experience of the museum’s teams, the Searchable Museum tells the complex story of our nation’s history in ways only the National Museum of African American History and Culture can.”

The website is free and does not require registration or sign-up to use. You can access it here, www.SearchableMuseum.com.

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