From pre-20th century to today, the NMAAHC’s artifact collection range from slavery-era mementos to fashion pieces to music memorabilia. From big and broad events that swept the nation to the everyday snapshots of individuals, such moments are presented in numerous exhibitions. Examples include the Cultural Expressions exhibit, which takes a look at the Great Migration and its impact on dance, art, and identity; another is Taking the Stage, which showcases the challenges and perseverance of those on stage and screen; yet another is More than a Picture, a diverse collection of old and recent photographs that tell more than the eye can see. To pay homage to the history and ethnic influence on African American cuisine its restaurant, Sweet Home Cafe, offers four regional stations: The Agricultural South, the Creole Coast, the North States, and the Western Range.
The distinguishing factor of this museum is its focus on interaction. Staff and curators share their perspectives and fascinations with certain artifacts through such programs as Many Lenses and Collection Stories. Various initiatives, such as the Memory Book and the Civil Rights History Project, have also been launched to help teach, share, and learn more about the African American life and journey.