TODAY | February 27, 2014
>>> is of course black history month. in washington a new smithsonian museum is under construction dedicated to the history of african- americans . kristen walker got a tour of the site.
>> reporter: the national mall , once inhabited by slaves and slave owners is now being transformed into a permanent home for african- american history .
>> our goal is that you'll come through this museum and you'll be changed.
>> the smithsonian's national african- american history museum will take its place among the other national treasures here.
>> this is the largest exhibit space.
>> reporter: but director lonnie bunch says this space will be different.
>> the reality is that the story of the african- american experience not as a story simply for african- americans but as a story that profoundly shapes our identity as americans needs to be told.
>> reporter: bunch is a veteran in his field but unlike past projects, he and his team are building this museum from the ground up. 30,000 artifacts? is that right?
>> yeah. we started with zero.
>> you started with zero?
>> the biggest fear hi taking this job was could i find the stuff of history?
>> reporter: but he has, from the dress rosa parks was stitching just before she sewed the seeds to end segregation, to a plane flown a deck aade earlier by tuskegee airmen and the hymn book of harriet tubman . i was struck by the fact you had harriet tubman 's hymn book.
>> every time i hold the object, i'm almost moved to tears.
>> reporter: some of the objects were so large, they needed a crane to put them in place. over a month from now, you'll be able to see the structure of two floors. there will ultimately be five above-ground levels and it will take two years before the museum is finished. congressman john lewis introduced legislation 15 times before it was passed.
>> i'd take it personally because i gave a little blood on the bridge in selma.
>> we intend to march to montgomery.
>> and i don't want us to repeat that sad part of our history. we must never go back. we must continue to go forward.
>> reporter: personal, too, for the nation's first african- american president , who will have his own exhibit here.
>> what we build here will be a monument for all time.
>> reporter: for lonnie bunch, stakes couldn't be higher. your father passed away a year ago.
>> with his death, it reminded me that, okay, history can't wait, there are people who will be here who need to see this.
>> reporter: a museum not just to preserve the past but to build the future.
>> i look forward going. it's an amazing place.
>> they think it will cost about a half a million dollars to build it. oprah was among the largest donors, 13 million -- billion, i'm sorry. someone u.s. reminded me