Bringing Exhibits to Life at the African American History Museum / by Liz Maurer

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), America’s most anticipated and long-awaited museum, opened to the public On September 24, 2016. The museum was nearly 100 years in the making. Through 85,000 square feet of exhibit space spread across eight levels, the exhibits explore what it means to be an American, demonstrating how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture. Design and Production Incorporated was selected in 2014 as the prime contractor for exhibit fabrication, installation, and Audiovisual and technology systems. 

Now at last the National Museum of African American History and Culture is open for every American and the world to better understand the African American journey and how it shaped America.
— Lonnie Bunch III, Founding Director

Twelve Inaugural Exhibits Articulate the American Experience

History, community and culture are the themes of the museum’s 12 inaugural exhibitions. Over 3,000 artifacts exhibited in 500 archival display cases illustrate stories of people who experienced slavery, emancipation, segregation, the civil rights movement, and the modern era. Nearly 10,000 individual graphic panels narrate 600 years of history from the coast of Africa to the halls of Congress.  Together, the exhibits articulate the American experience through the African American lens.

Every inch of the museum is infused with significance and meaning. Neither of which was lost on the teams members who brought the exhibit plans to three dimensional reality. The NMAAHC timeline required integrating exhibit fabrication and installation into the building construction. Over 21 months, the fabrication, scenic, and technology integration teams coordinated with architects and the building contractor to ensure that all of the pieces would fit seamlessly at the end. Exhibit structures had to be engineered before their gallery homes were finished. Electrical and signal conduit and raceways were coordinated with the building general contractor. Full-scale templates were supplied for wall construction. L. Sue Lepp, D&P’s Technology Systems Group Manager, noted that the technically challenging project was among the most complex of any completed by D&P in its 65 years.

Everyone at D&P contributed to the success of this amazing project. As hard and as challenging as everything could become, our team never lost sight of the goal. This exhibit represents the best of what we do. We are proud to be part of this story.
— J.F. Barnwell, Jr., President, Design and Production Incorporated

Broad Public Support and Partnerships Led to Success

Supported in equal measures by the federal government and private citizens, NMAAHC is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.  Design and Production Incorporated (D&P) provides exhibit project management, production, and technology systems services to museums, educational institutions, visitor and information centers, science and nature centers, and major expositions throughout the United States and abroad.