In April 2009, the Smithsonian chose the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup as the architectural team to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The selection was made among six architectural firms that entered a design competition in January 2009. The team selected consists of four firms that have joined together for this unique project—The Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup. The Freelon Group will be the architect of record and Phil Freelon will serve as the design guarantor— making sure that the design reflects the values and priorities of the museum and the Smithsonian. The Freelon Group designed the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture launched its website, www.nmaahc.si.edu, prior to the construction of its building giving the public the opportunity to help shape the museum’s collections and exhibits. This is the first major museum to use the internet to help create a new museum by gathering input from the public.
Online visitors can share a story, an image or an audio recording and it may become a part of the Memory Book at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum is asking the public to contribute memories that will be linked to each other in the Memory Book exhibit. An online map shows how these diverse memories will be linked to content organized by the museum to spotlight people, places, issues and moments in African American history.
Early contributors to the Memory Book include the following:
- Willie L. Brown Jr. The former San Francisco mayor recalls his childhood, his education and the civil rights era through an audio recording and photographs
- Michael L. Lomax The president of the United Negro College Fund recounts his childhood in Los Angeles and his parents' decision to move the family to Tuskegee, Ala., for six months during the civil rights movement
- William Anderson An osteopathic surgeon and a leader in the civil rights movement in Georgia uses a book excerpt to tell of his work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy
- Jackson B. remembers rolling Easter eggs at the National Zoo in Washington in the 1930s
- Kelvin B. Fowler tells how his great-great grandfather escaped slavery by hitching a boat ride with a group of fisherman and sailing to freedom in Virginia