How to Build a Museum by Tonya Bolden

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tonya Bolden. September 6, 2016. Viking Books for Young Reader, 64 p. ISBN: 9780451476371.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.9; Lexile 1150.

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is truly groundbreaking!

The first national museum whose mission is to illuminate for all people, the rich, diverse, complicated, and important experiences and contributions of African Americans in America is opening.
And the history of NMAAHC–the last museum to be built on the National Mall–is the history of America.

The campaign to set up a museum honoring black citizens is nearly 100 years old; building the museum itelf and assembling its incredibly far-reaching collections is a modern story that involves all kinds of people, from educators and activists, to politicians, architects, curators, construction workers, and ordinary Americans who donated cherished belongings to be included in NMAAHC’s thematically-organized exhibits.

Award-winning author Tonya Bolden has written a fascinating chronicle of how all of these ideas, ambitions, and actual objects came together in one incredible museum. Includes behind-the-scenes photos of literally “how to build a museum” that holds everything from an entire segregated railroad car to a tiny West African amulet worn to ward off slave traders.

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 6-9. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening on September 24, 2016, represents the fulfillment of a dream that took hold 100 years ago among a group of black Civil War veterans. After introducing the new museum’s director, this handsome book outlines the project’s history, the institution’s goals, and the design and building of a suitable home near the Washington Monument. The museum’s staff faced the challenge of assembling a large collection of suitable objects “from scratch.” Many items were donated, while others were purchased. Beautifully designed, the book’s intriguing color photos shine from the bright pages. These illustrations include photos showing the museum’s construction and many spotlighting noteworthy photographs, documents, and artifacts, such as a black soldier’s powder horn from the American Revolution, a railway passenger car from the Jim Crow era, a biplane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, the ensemble worn by Marian Anderson at her Lincoln Memorial performance, and an Obama campaign banner. A well-organized and informative book introducing this significant new historical center.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2016)
An account of how the “hundred-year hope” for a National Museum of African American History and Culture came to fruition, with glimpses of the new institution’s treasures.  Bolden looks past most of the friction and politics to focus on the heroically sustained effort to make this museum a reality—a campaign that began during a huge reunion of Civil War veterans in 1915 and at last reached the groundbreaking stage at a site near the Washington Monument in 2012 (this volume is scheduled to coincide with the building’s planned opening in September 2016). Along with discussing the ins and outs of designing, creating, and staffing a new museum of this magnitude, the author describes how the curators went about soliciting and gathering a collection of national stature. That collection ranges from an entire segregated railway car from the 1920s and a shawl worn by Harriet Tubman to “documents, dolls, diaries, books, balls, bells, benches, medals, medallions, and more.” In a second section organized along historical and topical lines, big, clear photos of some of these rarities, with explanatory captions, offer insight not only into the diversity of the museum’s holdings, but also into its broader mission to “drive home the point that black history is everybody’s history.” An inspiring tale as well as a tantalizing invitation to visit one of our country’s newest “must see” attractions. (source notes) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolden attended Princeton University in New Jersey, and, in 1981, obtained her B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. Bolden was also a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize.

Upon graduating from Princeton University, Bolden began working as a salesperson for Charles Alan, Incorporated, a dress manufacturer, while working towards her M.A. degree at Columbia University. In 1985, Bolden earned her degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute; after this she began working as an office coordinator for Raoulfilm, Inc., assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. Bolden worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources while serving as newsletter editor of the HARKline, a homeless shelter newsletter.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want To Sing along with Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical. Bolden continued publishing throughout the 1990s, releasing Starting a Business from your Home, Mail-Order and Direct Response, The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm and The Champ. Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, in 1998. Bolden’s writing career became even more prolific in the following decade; a partial list of her works include:, Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, MLK: Journey of a King, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II, and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

Her website is www.tonyaholdenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture Video Tour via CNN

Around the Web

How to Bulid a Museum on Amazon

How to Bulid a Museum on JLG

How to Bulid a Museum on Goodreads

 

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