HISTORY

9/28/2016

The next time you are in Washington D.C., you must check out the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This is the newest Smithsonian museum to be unveiled on the mall. With much ado and hype, this awe-inspiring arrangement of an architectural arena of antiquities commands a prominent position in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Approved by Congress in 2003, it just had its grand opening on September 24, 2016. The National Museum was preceded by many different cities who opened museums to recognize the achievements and tribulations of their African American citizens. Detroit, in 1997, opened the largest Black History Museum in the world. Its cost was 38.4 million dollars for 120,000 square feet of exhibition space.  Washington’s contribution is nearly 600 million dollars for 350,000 square feet. It consists of 10 stories; five of which are underground and off limits to tourists. The square footage price is typical D.C. waste but, Clark Construction, the entrenched General Contractor who gets the majority of public projects in D.C., is not complaining. The most interesting architectural feature of the museum is the Scrim, a three-tiered, coronal layer that surrounds the building with a lacey skin. Modeled on geometric patterns stamped into ironworks that were found in the black communities of Charleston and New Orleans, the Corona was originally designed to be in brass. Chosen for its beauty and resistance to corrosion, it was rejected, due to the high costs (?). After many debates and experiments that only drove the expenses up, a solution was reached on an aluminum base metal, with a polyvinyl difluoride coating. Somewhere on that committee was an individual who foresaw that if brass was chosen, and a riot broke out in Washington (there have been several in history), the perpetrators would rip the Scrim off the building, scrap it, and buy high octane beer and expensive gin with the proceeds. Very intuitive. 

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