Vassar Quarterly - Spring/Summer 2017 - 25
Yassine El Mansouri
by Elizabeth Randolph
It's the hottest ticket since Hamilton! The new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and
Culture (NMAAHC) opened on the National Mall in
Washington, DC, last fall and demand has been fierce!
More than 1.6 million people have visited since then,
and the number of requests for advance timed entry
passes has been so great that the museum only offers
them on the first Wednesday of each month at 9:00am.
The roughly 110,000 passes that are issued are usually
snapped up within two hours.
This spring, however, "A Vassar Evening at the
Smithsonian National Museum of African American
History and Culture," organized by the Office of
Regional and International Programs, offered 500
Vassar alums exclusive after-hours access and an
opportunity to attend a panel discussion on architecture and metaphor. On the dais were Vassar Senior
Lecturer Emeritus in Art Jeh Johnson, who had worked
for decades as a Hudson Valley architect; Columbia
University Associate Professor of Architecture Mabel
O. Wilson; and the William Kenan Jr. Professor of
Architecture at the University of Virginia Karen Van
Lengen '73, who served as moderator.
The event also was an opportunity for DC-area
alumnae/i and members of the African American
Alumnae/i of Vassar College (AAAVC) to meet and hear
a brief welcome by President-elect Elizabeth Bradley.
She set the tone for the evening, saying, "The National
Museum of African American History and Culture gets
to tell us today and every time we come back a history
of African Americans that has not been told adequately."
After the panel, visitors were free to explore the
museum on their own. The multi-level space starts
several floors below ground with the history of the U.S.
slave trade and moves up chronologically into Reconstruction, the establishment of Jim Crow laws, the
emergence of the Civil Rights Movement, and more.
It emerges above ground-into the light-to focus on
African Americans' vast contributions to American
culture, arts, language, entertainment, sports, and
VA S S A R Q u A R T E R LY