Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC)

One of the most highly anticipated museums of the past decade, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), opened its doors on Sept. 24, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

Curated with equal parts celebration and somber reflection, the establishment chronicles "the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation."

The museum's permanent collection includes a wide range of exhibits and installations, including everything from replicas of cabins inhabited by slaves and freed men to the iconic outfits worn by famous black change-makers.

An exhibit of a log cabin that housed freed slaves.
An exhibit of a log cabin that housed freed slaves. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The building was designed by Tanzanian-born British architect David Adjaye, who drew inspiration for the tiered, crown-like structure from Yoruba culture. Situated upon the National Mall's expansive campus of memorials and monuments, it's a stark and refreshing contrast to the area's many neoclassical marble structures.

"Most Mall museums are squat blocks, rooted in neo-Classical tradition: timeless grandeur and stability are their messages, and you barely look at them twice," writes Holland Cotter for The New York Times. "The new museum seems to change texture at every encounter, giving it visual intrigue and also implying a more contemporary understanding of culture’s fleet, contingent, it-depends-on-who’s-looking dynamics."

Not to mention that the museum's filigreed metal tiers literally change color depending on what time of day it is. In darkness and shade, the facade appears a dark rust brown, and as more sunlight enters the picture, it takes on a more golden, honeyed hue. You can see an excellent demonstration of this in the image below:

The color-changing exterior of the new museum.
The color-changing exterior of the new museum. (Photo: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC)

The museum is free to the public, but if you plan to visit anytime soon, you'll need to register for a timed entry pass because of the attraction's popularity.

Photographs can do little to articulate the experience of physically visiting such an important museum like this, but here's just a small sneak peek at some of the documents, imagery, artifacts, memorabilia and other culturally significant items on display.

"Two Minute Warning" photograph by Spider Martin.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

In this famous 1965 image by movement photographer Spider Martin, civil rights activists John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Albert Turner and Bob Mants stand their ground after police issue a two-minute warning to disperse.


Iron shackles once worn by slaves.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

These iron shackles, which date back to before the Civil War, were once worn by slaves.


Famous outfits and costumes worn by black pop culture icons.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

Famous outfits and costumes worn by black pop culture icons. From left: The dress worn by Whitney Houston at the 1993 Billboard Music Awards; an outfit worn by Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson 5; the Glinda costume worn by Dee Dee Bridgewater in "The Wiz;" a dress worn by civil rights icon Rosa Parks.


Tintype of an unidentified Civil War soldier.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

Tintype of an unidentified black soldier photographed sometime during the Civil War.


Group portrait of the National Council of Negro Women.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

Activists organizing with the National Council of Negro Women hold up voter registration signs on Sept. 8, 1956.


A pair of 1985 red and black Air Jordan high top sneakers by Nike.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

A pair of red-and-black Nike Air Jordan high top sneakers from 1985.


James Baldwin's passport.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

The passport of James Baldwin, a black gay writer and social critic whose work explored the intersections of race, gender and class in western society.


A collection of pins from historical political campaigns and movements.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

A collection of pins from historical political campaigns and movements. Pictured: A pin commemorating the 1997 Million Woman March (top left); a pin celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (top right); a pin from the 2008 Obama presidential campaign (bottom left); a pin in support of human rights activist Malcolm X (bottom right).


"At Her Best, Sarah Vaughan" photograph by Joe Schwartz, 1950.
(Photo: NMAAHC)

A stunning portrait of jazz singer Sarah Vaughan performing in 1950, captured by Joe Schwartz.


Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.