Although COVID-19 has restricted the public’s ability to visit museums in-person, new digital tours are available through the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s (NMAAHC) website. From virtual exhibitions to online collections, innovative and engaging educational resources now offer visitors the ability to take a “trip” to the museum from anywhere.
In the NMAAHC’s new Digital Resource Guide, visitors can access engaging resources on civil rights, biographies of African American leaders, educational modules, and more. Virtual guests can take advantage of Learning Lab modules on everything from Black superheroes in pop culture to African American historians, examine the African American experience during World War I, watch events featuring Oprah Winfrey and Mayor Muriel Bowser, or take a look at the museum’s vast Civil Rights History Project.
Robert F. Smith, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners and a leading philanthropist, has been one of the museum’s top donors since its founding. In 2016, Smith’s $20 million gift to the NMAAHC was among the largest gifts to the museum by an individual.
“I am thrilled to bring the transformative power of technology to celebrate and conserve the African American experience in America,” Smith said at the time. “It is so fitting that this beautiful building on the National Mall, where Martin Luther King stood just steps away during the March on Washington, will serve as a living tribute and custodian of our rich history.”
In fact, Smith’s funding created the NMAAHC’s Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History. The Center provides a plethora of hands-on, impactful programs, such as the Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center, which helps people begin their family history journey and learn to research their African American genealogy. His funding has also created the Robert Frederick Smith Internship and Fellowship Program, a series of paid positions designed to build pathways for marginalized communities to grow successful careers in the cultural sector.
Limiting in-person activities, COVID-19 has had a major effect on the operations and budgets of museums across the globe, from history and science museums, to art museums big and small. Still, these valuable cultural institutions have continued to expand collections via “restricted acquisition funds,” purchasing more art from artists of color and women than ever before. As the country reckons with its past and institutions develop exhibits solely devoted to racial justice, museums such as the NMAAHC are at the forefront of national cultural discourse.
Visitors can view upcoming events on NMAAHC’s website and explore the many digital resources they offer to the public. More information is also available about Smith’s various programs through the NMAAHC: the Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center, Robert F. Smith Internship Program, Community Curation Program, and Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History.