When The President of the United States and the Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) break ground on February 22, 2012, it will be the beginning of a new adventure for Smithsonian Libraries. Plans for the museum include locating the library in wonderful space on a public floor with direct public access. Mary Augusta Thomas and Bill Baxter have been working with the staff of the NMAAHC space planning team, including representatives from the education department, the center for media arts and collections. We all enjoy the challenges of planning for a highly interactive information commons and a research library with a program that is only now being defined. Our joint vision is for a place that visitors will come with questions raised by their time in the exhibitions. These might be about objects in the collections, or the location of a museum or cultural center in their vicinity.
In addition, the museum and library will offer resources and training in genealogy, another first for SIL. In addition, the library reference specialists will provide onsite assistance with databases, a collection expected to be about 20000 volumes’ and a scholar’s workstation for visiting fellows and researchers. Library users will be able discover resources throughout SL and retrieve items quickly. SIL is also in discussions about offering services to support archives research. SIL selectors have been tagging books for the new museum for several years so a beginning collection is currently located at the Anacostia Community Museum Library. The Libraries will bring a new librarian on board in the next year to work with planners and researchers at the Museum on those important first exhibitions and ongoing programs.
—Mary Augusta Thomas, Associate Director
Images: Construction from Constitution Ave (top) and Signage from 15th Street (bottom).