How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-11-23 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"Wow, I am ready to plan a visit to this museum! This nonfiction volume is a fascinating, kid-friendly introduction to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which took over one hundred years to go from dream to reality, and is the last museum to be built on the National Mall. It illuminates the importance of preserving black history for all Americans, and highlights the hard work of those who were dedicated to ensuring that plans for the museum would come to fruition. As a librarian with an art history background, I love that this book went into how the museum built its collection, and the various people who were involved in getting it off the ground.

Families who read this book together will surely be eager to plan a visit.
" said.

"This book is incredible! The history behind the creation of the museum is covered from the initial idea through the many setbacks to the fundraising and construction and symbolism of the design. Then, readers are taken on a tour of the galleries!

I approached this book believing I'd like it, but I am over the moon about it! The way the author so thoughtfully lays out the monumental task of building a museum from scratch really helps young readers consider how museums are planned and executed and how many steps are required for each. By showing readers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a museum, they are much more involved in the process and encouraged to develop a discerning eye as to what types of objects make for valuable museum content and also how even small design features contribute to a greater symbolism that supports the museum's mission.

After reading this book I can't wait to visit this museum in person! Recommended for grades 5 and up.
" said.

"Tonya Bolden traces the process of building the new National Museum of African American History and Culture from beginning to end - and just like many phases of African American history, it was a long and hard-fought battle to victory. In addition to summarizing how the museum came to be, Bolden also highlights how it was designed and outfitted with artifacts and highlights each of the main exhibits in the museum. My favorite sections were definitely on the design process (the connection of the building shape and materials to African American history is so cool) and on how the museum team gathered items for the exhibits (I was just picturing them rooting through the trash of the Obama campaign after he won in 2008).

Overall, I think this is a great book for everyone - kid or adult. It definitely made me want to visit the museum myself, and now I can walk in with a greater understanding of just how hard people had to work to bring the dream of a African American museum to a reality. And in true Bolden fashion, there are tons of primary source photos to accompany the text and source notes in the back to back up her research.
" said.

"Having literally just visited Washington, DC a month ago and seeing the outside of this museum that was set to have a grand opening, I was excited that this book came across my desk.

A well-organized look at the time, effort, talent, and work that goes into creating and curating a museum, but not to mention the political and financial wherewithal that needs to exist in order to get something as monumental as a museum built, and on the Mall no less.

Since the focus was on a range of topics with the main focus the building of the museum, it included people, places, and events and I was especially moved by the latter section that features what the focal points of the museum are. As Bolden's narrative includes from those that helped support and build it, this museum is not about African American in slavery but as a well-rounded storytelling of African Americans throughout the history of the United States which includes everything from art to sports, not just the darkest part of history, it's truly a celebration.

And knowing what the building looks like in person, I enjoyed the description of how the exterior was chosen and how to curate the interior. Fascinating. And worthy of a read regardless of whether you'd be visiting it anytime soon.
" said.

"This was really fascinating, but being a museum and history nerd it isn’t surprising that I was hooked. But would a kid be?

The book is not overly long and it focuses on the entire history of the museum, from the inception of the idea way back in the early 20th century, through appointing a head, to construction of the building, to building the collections. The process for how they acquired artifacts was clever and well done. There were the typical auction acquisitions, but they ran an Antiques Roadshow style event in several cities across the US. There they had people bring three items from their family heirlooms and they would give them some historical context. Any they were interested in they asked to keep and restore (and I believe purchase). Each chapter takes on a different piece of building the museum. Some of the more technical aspects, like signing it into law and finding a director may be less interesting to kids, but it isn’t overly detailed and lengthy.

The final two-page spreads focus on a variety of the exhibitions in the museum. There are pictures of artifacts with captions and some text that gives the context behind the exhibit. There is a music collection and an athletics collection that may really pique reluctant reader interest.

I was pleased to see a shout out to Sacramento. A white couple had bought a plane to restore and it turned out to be a plane that had been used to train Tuskegee Airmen. A number of them had even signed the cockpit. The couple did restore the plane and ultimately donated it to the museum. They also flew it across the country to deliver it!

This is the kind of nonfiction I want to be curating in my older/harder nonfiction collection. It’s engaging without being too long. It has a mix of pictures and text, but isn’t so busy it’s hard to read and follow the narrative. I would say this book would work for kids in fourth grade on up into middle school (and maybe even high school for lower readers or students that are particularly interested in the topic). It’s certainly timely and important. Arguably it’s interesting in that you don’t see the creation of these spaces discussed or focused on in children’s nonfiction much. History buffs may take particular delight in this one.
" said.

" Fascinating look at the history and development of the NMAAHC in picture book format covering everything from its conception, setbacks, construction, and exhibits. " said.

" Fascinating history of how this museum came to be. I wanted more information on the exhibits but so appreciate the grit and perseverance required to make this beautiful museum a reality. " said.

" Well researched, high detail, this was a contender for a Juv NF project. Now I want to go to DC & see this museum. " said.

January 2019 New Book:

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