The museum will tell the story about the making of the American People from the first humans in the Western Hemisphere through today. It will be the embodiment of our original national motto: E Pluribus Unum – From Many, One! It is about the people from every corner of Earth who came and made the United States the world's economic, military, scientific and cultural leader.
The Museum's mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about the story of the making of the American People, how they created and changed this country, and to challenge visitors to reflect upon moral questions that are raised by that story as well as to take pride in it.
It will tell the immigration and migration histories of every ethnic, nationality and minority group in the nation. The museum will tell:
Eminent scholars will provide the intellectual bedrock upon which the Museum will be built. The story will be developed and vetted by teams of historians, anthropologists, archeologists, ethnologists, human geographers, sociologists, demographers, geneticists, linguists and others.
The story will follow a consensus of their views, and include significant mainstream historic and scientific dissenting views. The Museum will ensure the highest standards of scholarship. With force and clarity, it will examine unpleasant truths and avoid mythology.
The story in the Museum's permanent exhibition will be told in chronological fashion in a dramatic, interactive documentary format. A variety of media, including ancient and modern artifacts, film, visuals, dioramas, graphics, text, the latest computer technology and models in a framework that will encourage reflection as visitors absorb the story. Our goal is to make this the best story-telling museum in the world telling one of the most amazing stories in human history.
We envision the story being told in four chapters:
A few groups, such as Native Americans and Latinos, will be represented in all four chapters of the Museum's story. Some groups may only appear in the last chapter and others will witness their stories across multiple chapters.
The Coalition for the National Museum of the American People has more than 170 organizations representing more than 60 ethnic, nationality and minority groups backing this effort. They represent people from every significant ethnic group in the nation. American ethnic groups with organizations supporting the NMAP include: African, Arab, Armenian, Asian Pacific, Baltic, Caribbean, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dominican, Dutch, English, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hispanic, Hungarian, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Latino, Mexican, Native Hawaiian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Salvadoran, Scottish, Slovak, Swedish, Taiwanese, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Welsh. In addition, American Indian organizations and the Daughters of the American Revolution back this project.
Major components of the Museum that could be explored by the proposed commission could include:
In Washington, DC near the National Mall. A favored location is the Banneker Overlook site, an eight-acre slope at the end of L'Enfant Promenade, an extension of 10th Street, S.W. The site is on a direct axis with the Smithsonian's Castle Building and reaches down to Maine Avenue and the Washington, D.C. waterfront across the street from the District's fish market. It is near the L'Enfant Plaza Metro stop, the only station in the system that serves five lines. The National Park Service, U.S. Commission on Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission favor this location as a future museum site.
It could cost upwards of $500 million. Backers would like to have a provision in the legislation creating the entity to build and raise the money for the museum to allow it to accept gifts from foreign governments. The entity would also seek large gifts from corporations, foundations and wealthy individuals and then seek gifts from the American public. While the federal government would be asked to provide a plot of land for the museum, the museum does not plan to seek federal appropriations to plan, build or operate the museum.
The National Museum of American History is not a story-telling museum in the literal sense. It is an artifact-based museum. When people refer to the Smithsonian Museum as the nation's attic, they are generally referring to the collections in this museum: American transportation objects, first ladies' gowns, pop culture items and a range of industry-based and American history objects. From time to time the museum has special exhibitions with objects that focus on a particular historic event such as Japanese internment. The NMAH would have to use most of its space to tell the full story of the making of the American People.
The National Museum of the American Indian focuses on Native belief systems of a dozen different tribes and depicts contemporary life at a dozen Indian reservations across the United States and displays a rich collection of American Indian art and presents a varied program of American Indian culture, but there is virtually no history in the NMAI prior to 1492 and it tells very little of their history after first contact with Europeans.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be, when it opens in 2016, the first museum on the National Mall to tell any group's story. The story of slavery, segregation and race relations has been a traumatic segment of our nation's history for 400 years.
The coalition's founding director, Sam Eskenazi, came up with the idea for the museum in the late 1990s and he began developing a detailed proposal and plan of action in 2007. He received immediate, enthusiastic support from historians and ethnographers. He formed the coalition to support the museum during 2009-10 and in the 112th and 113th Congress Rep. Jim Moran, D-VA, agreed to become lead sponsor of the resolution calling for a commission to study establishment of the museum. The resolution had 48 bipartisan cosponsors.