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National Museum of African American History and Culture Opens to Public

Museum will house Civil War-era records for family history research

Thousands of visitors gathered near the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., last weekend to attend the opening of the Smithsonian’s 19th museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The new museum traces the history of African Americans from slavery to today.


The public was allowed to enter the museum following the dedication ceremony on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The celebration included a three-day music festival.  


Five floors of exhibition space feature nearly 3,000 objects, 12 exhibitions and more than 180 videos, which trace the path of African American contributions to the United States. By the end of the year, the 85,000-square-foot museum will also be home to a digitized collection of Civil War-era records from the Freedmen’s Bureau, allowing patrons to search for their African American ancestors.  


The volunteer effort to index millions of names found in the federal Freedmen’s Bureau records was organized by FamilySearch International, the world’s largest genealogy organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the past year, about 19,000 volunteers in the U.S. and Canada participated in the Freedmen’s Bureau Project to extract nearly 1.8 million names of former slaves and immigrants from the Civil War-era handwritten records.


FamilySearch partnered with the Smithsonian, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society’s (AAHGS) nationwide chapters and local Mormon congregations in dozens of indexing events to complete the yearlong project that was launched at a news conference in Los Angeles on June 19, 2015, the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, which celebrates the ending of slavery in the country.

Photos courtesy of Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC

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