Sites Proposed for African-American Museum
By: Shantella Sherman
Special to the NNPA from Afro Newspapers
Originally posted 12/2/2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. (NNPA) – About 50 D.C. residents braved the rain to take part in a Nov. 16 town hall meeting at the Smithsonian to assess four possible sites for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Scheduled to open in late 2006, the museum is the latest in a succession of museums and cultural centers proposed for the Washington Mall.
With continued growth in the city, there was some concern about already existing overcrowding at national landmarks, but legislation directed the Smithsonian Board of Regents to select one of four locations specified by Congress for the museum.
The Regents' decision will be based in part on the results of an engineering study and other factors, including public sentiment.
On hand at Baird Auditorium were broadcast journalist Renee Poussaint, NMAHC Founding Director Lonnie Bunch and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Norton said all of the sites seem well-researched and emphasized how essential it is that the community remains involved in the museum's completion.
''I was one of the original composers of the legislation to get this museum built, and year after year, we fought to get it through the House and Senate. But this fight began more than 115 years ago with African-American soldiers who had served in the Civil War being denied the right to march in a parade honoring military soldiers,'' said Norton.
''There were more than 100,000 Blacks who served, and all they wanted was to march. Once they were denied the right to march, it morphed into the idea among those who supported them to honor them with a museum all their own. Over the years, it morphed into the very museum we are establishing today.''
Ensuring that the museum would be placed within the corridor of other museums -- and in an area conducive to foot and automobile traffic -- made finding the perfect spot tricky. But as the site assessors found, there were plenty of plans and alternative plans to be had.
Plexus Scientific Corp., an engineering and infrastructure consulting firm, and PageSoutherlandPage, an architectural and engineering firm, conducted the site evaluation study.
''We have looked at drawings both past and present to decide where the best plans for [the] District are,'' said William A. Brown, executive vice president for PageSoutherlandPage.
''Analysis has been made of each site. These assessments include how construction and the museum itself with affect traffic, utilities, and views from the site.
''Two possibilities were determined for each site, which we called scenarios. We will not be the ones to make the decision, the Smithsonian will. What we can tell you is that each of these possibilities is accessible by Metro.''
Poussaint, who serves as the executive director of the National Visionary Leadership Project, believes, like Norton, that whichever site is chosen, the Smithsonian will be fair and just. She also feels the decision is a long-awaited one.
''There is a special meaning in this city for African Americans whose very descendants were among those soldiers and those who have been fighting to get this measure seen to completion,'' said Poussaint.
Anyone wishing to comment on the four possible museum sites may write to Sheila Burke, deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Smithsonian, who will gather all comments and forward them to the Board of Regents. Her address is: P.O. Box 37012, SIB 219 MRC 040, Washington, D.C. 20013-7012.
The four sites under consideration are:
The Arts and Industries Building
Located between Jefferson Drive and Independence Avenue at Ninth Street S.W., the site is adjacent to the Haupt Garden and the Smithsonian Castle on the south side of the Mall. It is near the Smithsonian Metro.
The Monument Site
Located between Constitution Avenue, Madison Drive and 14th and 15th streets N.W., immediately west of the National Museum of American History, the site is on the Mall at the base of the Washington Monument. It is near the Federal Triangle Metro stop and the proposed underground Monument Visitors' Center.
The Liberty Loan Site
Located at 14th Street S.W., just south of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Building, overlooking the Tidal Basin and at the foot of the 14th Street Bridge, the site is occupied by a government office building that would most likely need to be demolished. It is one block south of the Holocaust Museum and two blocks from the Mall, adjacent to the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial.
The Banneker Overlook Site
Located at the south end of 10th Street at the end of L'Enfant Plaza Promenade, the site is nearly four blocks from the Mall, on an axis with the Smithsonian Castle. It is the terminus of L'Enfant Promenade.
The site is the location of the Benjamin Banneker Park and memorial site. The site overlooks the Southwest waterfront along Maine Avenue. L'Enfant Promenade crosses I-395, which is adjacent to the site. It is near the L'Enfant Plaza Metro.