On Sept. 24, 2016, more than 100 years after the idea was conceived, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will open its doors.

The NMAAHC sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., just minutes away from the Washington Monument and the Capitol. It will soon be among the 19 museums and galleries of the Smithsonian Institution.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.


And though it's a dream decades in the making, like most good dreams, it's worth the wait.

"This Museum will tell the American story through the lens of African American history and culture," NMAAHC founding director Lonnie Bunch III said in a statement. "This is America’s Story and this museum is for all Americans."

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The museum's collection was made possible thanks, in large part, to donated antiques, heirlooms, and treasures from ordinary people.

Curators hosted events across the country encouraging people to go through their homes in search of these rich artifacts that tell the story of African-American history.

From family heirlooms to things long-forgotten in attics and closets, the museum collected close to 40,000 items, just from helpful citizens. Their contributions fill the 400,000-square-foot museum and add character and context to these moving stories.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Visitors to the museum's Slavery and Freedom Gallery will come face to face with legends like Robert Smalls, a slave who stole his master's boat, rescued his family, and sailed to freedom.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

You'll also see symbols of oppression and violence, like these iron shackles.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Or this lash used to punish and intimidate without forgiveness.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Some of the items in the museum are larger than life, like this preserved slave cabin, complete with statue of freed slave turned entrepreneur Clara Brown.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Don't forget to look up or you'll miss this real plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen as they trained for World War II.

I'm guessing they didn't find this in someone's attic.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Guests can even see the dress Rosa Parks was wearing when her act of civil disobedience helped change the course of history.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The role that African-Americans play in shaping popular culture in America cannot be denied. Which is why gold and platinum records from some of the world's most popular artists are on display too.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Not to mention Chuck Berry's iconic red Cadillac.

Chuck Berry's 1973 Cadillac. Photo by Preston Keres/AFP/Getty Images.

It doesn't end there. There's an entire exhibit on black film and African-Americans in Hollywood, complete with props and costumes.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

And were you looking for Carl Lewis' Olympic medals? Say no more.

He's still the only man to win gold in the long jump four Olympics in a row.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

How about a pair of Dr. Ben Carson's scrubs? The NMAAHC has you covered.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

No matter the exhibit, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture is truly a celebration of African-American persistence and achievement.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

And if you can't get to the museum but want to see more, don't worry: Some pieces may be on tour near you.

The museum's traveling exhibition, “Changing America,” has been on display at museums, universities, libraries, and cultural centers across the country since 2014, and it will continue through at least February 2018.

But if you're able to get to Washington, D.C., stop in. Like all of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., admission to the NMAAHC is completely free.

Plus, you'll get to see America like you've never seen it before: through the eyes of the builders, dreamers, fighters, and innovators that made so much of it possible.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Trending Stories