Right now, it’s just a gallery located on the second floor of the National Museum of American History.

But by 2015, the Museum of African American History and Culture will rise from a grassy knoll on the Mall into a full-fledged institution chronicling 400 years of black life in the United States.

The museum was established in 2003 by an act of Congress and ground breaking is set for next year. The museum, which has been envisioned for decades, will sit near the Washington monument on Constitution Ave between 14th and 15th streets.

Stetson Kennedy in black Klan robe (Courtesy of Stetson Kennedy Foundation)

On the money front, the museum is slated to cost $500 million, about half pledged by Congress. The rest will come from private donations.

Recently, Washington insider Sinclair Skinner hosted a fundraiser at his home in Northwest Washington. It was part of the museum’s capital campaign to raise $250 million to help fund the institution’s construction and development. The event attracted about 150 guests, was a chance for the brains behind the institution to give well wishers a peak into what the estimated hundreds of thousand of annual visitors will see.

“Part of what we’re trying to encourage is that it’s a generational dialogue,” said John Franklin, director of partnerships and international programs, told the crowd.

Franklin said in addition to displaying art and curating exhibits, the institution will encourage people to bring personal items into the museum to have them looked over and researched.

“We thought we needed to...value what each of us have in our own homes,” he said. “Your mother received such and such a photograph or table or piece of linen from her mother or her aunt. You need to know the history of the things that surround you in your home. We want to help preserve [these personal items] for the future.”

The effort to build a national museum of black history dates back to the early 20th century. In 1996, one of the museum’s most vocal opponents, Jesse Helms, a former Republican senator from North Carolina, actively blocked passage of a bill authorizing the museum, saying Congress should not have to “pony up” for the cause.

But soon after Congress finally authorizing the museum’s creation in 2003, a world wide search for an architect began. In 2009, a team led by David Adjaye, the celebrated Tanzanian-born architect was chosen. As Franklin said in his remarks to the crowd: “Every architect in the world wanted to have this project.”

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