TODAY   |  February 27, 2014

Smithsonian Museum honors black history

The Smithsonian’s National African-American History Museum will take its place among the other national treasures on the National Mall.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> 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