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While the building excitement for the 2015 opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) may seem a long ways off, it is nowhere near as long as the wait for the groundbreaking that took place in February.

The museum, which will be located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History, had been on the drawing board since World War I, but was much delayed by disputes over the vision and purpose of the museum, and finally approved in 2003.

Its completion in 2015 is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery.

During a speech in April on the challenge of building a national museum, Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the NMAAHC, said the museum “is not an attempt to create an African American museum by African Americans for African Americans. It really has to be, as part of the Smithsonian, a museum that shapes us all. In some ways the challenge of this museum is to realize that when people look and think about core American values of spirituality, of resilience, of optimism, where better to look than within the African American community?”

Bunch, an accomplished and widely published historian and curator, has covered topics from the black military experience to the impact of politics and funding on American museums, and worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History from 1989 through 2000.

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