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Artifacts Installed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Construction on the National Museum of African American History and Culture reached a significant milestone with the arrival and installation of two of the largest signature artifacts acquired by the museum. A restored segregation-era railway car, circa 1918, and an early 20th century guard tower from the Angola prison in Louisiana promise to be two of the most captivating objects in the new museum when it opens in late 2015. They will be on display in the Segregation Gallery as part of an inaugural exhibition “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876 – 1968.”

The 77-ton, vintage rail car and concrete guard tower are too large to install once the museum building is completed. As a result, the two objects had to be lifted off a convoy of semi-trailers on Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets by two 500-ton cranes and lowered 60 feet into the bottom levels of the museum in the very early stage of construction. The remainder of the museum will be built around these two artifacts.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established as a Smithsonian museum by an Act of Congress in 2003. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. Groundbreaking for the $500 million museum took place Feb. 22 in a ceremony with President Barack Obama; former First Lady Laura Bush, a member of the museum’s advisory council; and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who co-sponsored the legislation that created the museum. It is now under construction on Washington’s National Mall, on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument. It is scheduled to open in winter 2015. For more information, visit