A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture during the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump

Smithsonian Sept. 2019. 288p. illus. index. ISBN 9781588346681. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781588346773. BUS
From its preface through its final pages, this debut by Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), seamlessly weaves the personal and political work that went into envisioning, planning, funding, building, and opening the museum. The author describes his own efforts, noting for instance that he chooses to ride the service elevators in the NMAAHC to interact with all the people involved in its operations, inserting epigraphs from figures as wide ranging as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Winston Churchill, Langston Hughes, and his own grandmother. Throughout, Bunch nudges readers to think about three coeval artifacts, and placemaking or public visibility. These anchor many of his stories and demonstrate the multifaceted impact of the NMAAHC.
VERDICT While centering on a specific narrative, this book serves as much more than an overview of the NMAAHC and will not solely appeal to museum curators or academics, as Bunch addresses the ways in which public spaces must be disrupted and dehierarchized to change cultural narratives.
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