PHILADELPHIA.- The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia will host the national debut of America I AM: The African American Imprint, a four-year touring museum exhibition that will celebrate 400 years of African American contributions to this country.
The exhibition is developed in partnership with The Smiley Group, Inc., and organized by Cincinnati Museum Center and Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI), which recently brought the King Tut exhibition to Philadelphia. The exhibition will run January 15 to May 3, 2009, presenting a historical continuum of pivotal moments in courage, conviction and creativity that solidifies the undeniable imprint of African Americans across the nation and around the world.
As Americans, we all want to live in a nation as good as its promise. This exhibition essentially tells the role that African Americans have played to make real the promise of American democracy, said Tavis Smiley, who is presenting the exhibition. Given its historic role in Americas back story, there is no better place to premiere this exhibit than the city of Philadelphia.
The National Constitution Center is proud and honored to be the premiere venue for this groundbreaking exhibition, said National Constitution Center President and CEO Joseph M. Torsella. The Center is dedicated to telling the story of We the People in ways that inspire visitors to become active citizens. This exhibition conveys the struggles, contributions, and triumphs of African Americans in a way that will inspire all Americans to engage in an important cultural and historical dialogue.
Philadelphia boasts a long list of firsts and prestigious events in our nations history, said Mayor Michael Nutter. The debut of America I AM at the National Constitution Center is yet another benchmark moment for the city, and we are proud to host this extraordinary exhibition.
The twelve galleries, each with its own music thematic and theater experiences, will convey a journey from struggle to triumph to celebration. Featuring more than 150 artifacts culled from every period of U.S. history, the exhibit will include objects, texts, religion, music, narration and media. An interactive component of the exhibition will allow visitors to leave their own video imprints, and this collection will grow throughout the life of the exhibit to become the largest recorded oral history project in U.S. history.
Exhibition organizers have worked with some of the most notable scholars in the field to develop this exhibition. Among others, advisory panel members include Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library; Lawrence J. Pijeaux Jr., president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and immediate past president of the Association of African American Museums; and Cornel West, professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University. John Fleming, president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and director emeritus of museums at the Cincinnati Museum Center, serves as the executive producer for the exhibition.
The National Constitution Center is working to create a local advisory panel, as well, to identify and develop collaborative programming to supplement the exhibit and carry the experience outside of the Centers walls.
We are proud to premiere this exhibition about the history of a people at a museum that tells the story of We the People in such an inspirational way, said John Norman, president of AEI. We know from bringing past exhibitions, such as King Tut, to Philadelphia that there is an appetite here for major cultural endeavors, and we look forward to another well received exhibition.