Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

African-American faith goes on display in DC

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Donation by Dr. Charles Blockson of Harriet Tubman items

Harriet Tubman’s personal book of hymns, dated 1876 (©2016 NMAAHC)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington DC, opens  on 24 September and will include over 2,500 artifacts related to faith and religious history. That’s 10 per cent of its collection.

According to Adelle M. Banks, writing for The Gazette:

Tucked in the back corner of [the underground history galleries] is a space decorated as a brush arbor – the secret hideaway where slaves could worship freely.

…Another case displays a kneeling altar from First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles and a Catholic choir chair from New Orleans. A third features artifacts about African-American Jews.

…Musical artifacts in the museum’s exhibits range from Tubman’s “Gospel Hymns No. 2” to a Grammy and a lime- green jacket from the Dixie Hummingbirds, a group that Ellis described as “the standard-bearers of gospel singing” for more than seven decades.

Sports figures highlighted include two-time Olympian Gabby Douglas, whose 2012 book, “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,” has been in the American History gallery, and boxing great Muhammad Ali.

…Five chaplains are featured in the military history gallery, along with the Bibles of service members, one from a soldier in the segregated military of the 1930s and another from a female West Point graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2006.

In the segregation gallery are the crucifix and chalice of Louis Beasley, a World War II chaplain who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart after saving the lives of two soldiers.

…The museum will [also] feature African tribal and folk religious objects such as a voodoo doll and a bottle tree, which is believed to capture evil spirits.

Read the full article here.

You can also explore the collection online at the NMAAHC’s website



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