28 August, 2016

Making a Home for Black History - The New Yorker

Making a Home for Black History - The New Yorker:

In 2005, Lonnie Bunch was hired to be the museum’s founding director. Bunch, now sixty-three, previously served as the associate director for curatorial affairs at the National Museum of American History, and then spent five years as the president of the Chicago Historical Society. We spoke this past April, on a muggy day in Washington, in his office at the Capital Gallery Building. He told me the story of how, after being hired by the N.M.A.A.H.C., which had “no collection, no money, no staff, no site,” he was greeted at an earlier set of offices, at L’Enfant Plaza.

 “I go over there—door’s locked,” he said. “So I go to security and say to the guard, you know, ‘I’m the director of this new museum.’ He says, ‘We don’t know who you are—you can’t get in.’ So I go to the manager’s office: he won’t let me in. I call back to the Smithsonian and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ They say, ‘We don’t know.’ So I’m standing in front of the door, really ticked off, thinking, Why’d I take this job? But then this maintenance guy walks by, and in his cart he’s got a crowbar. So I take the crowbar and break into the offices.”

 I may have looked skeptical. “Nobody was ready for us,” he insisted. “I had to break in.”
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