Although today proved to be emotionally and physically challenging day, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. NMAAHC was a fantastic start to our two week journey through the Museums of Washington D.C. While I enjoyed the whole museum I was particularly touched by the bottom level of the museum.
Standing in the elevator as we slowly descended watching as the dates scrolled back to the 1400s put me in the moment and made me feel like we were being transported back to the beginnings of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Upon walking into the exhibit there is a feeling of sorrow that washes over you. Throughout the exhibits on the bottom level, especially in the beginning when they are describing the transporting of the slaves, it is easy to empathize with the African caught in this awful situation. A particular section of the exhibit features you going into a side room with wooden floors and pieces of the boat, quotes and a few shackles are on display. In that tiny alcove, the story that was delivered brought tears to my eyes. The quotes on the walls described slaves jumping overboard into shark infested waters to end their misery and how many greeted death as a friend. But the most impactful quote I found was a quote by William Corbett in 1806 stating, “Their singing…[was] always in tears, in so much that one captain…threatened one of the women with a flogging because the mournfulness of her song was too painful for his feelings.” Many times the crew of these ships are portrayed as evil villains in the background this brought to light a couple things about some of the people who transported the slaves to auction. The first being that they knew what they were doing was wrong, they knew these were people who were getting wrenched away from their homes, families and lives to serve as puppets for an others use. Secondly, they were not unaffected by this deed, they held with themselves a shame that they were trying to ignore and did not want to be reminded of such emotions.
Although I was most effected by the section over the slave trade, NMAAHC did an amazing job on their execution of storytelling. There was always more than one side to the story making the exhibits more dimensional and enriching. They accomplished this with visuals, audio, and digital interactives throughout the entire museum. All the tools they used made the visitor put it into a personal level that I had never seen before.