"One ever feels his two-ness: an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder,” wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folks (1903). As we interpreted the competition brief, embracing and reconciling Du Bois’s brilliant characterization of black ontology encompassed the mission of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. As a new member of the ensemble of stately buildings lining the Mall, the NMAAHC should fit a culture characterized by non-conformity, that thrives on the interpretive, the dynamic, and the improvisational.
In the context of the proposed museum, history provides a moment of self and collective reflection; its narratives re-present the past in order to understand its lessons. Culture on the other hand immerses us in everyday experiences that shape our sense of who we are; it cultivates the creativity and imagination necessary to imagine who we will be. In response, Stone Cloud wraps the sequence of the public history galleries around museum’s core of culture galleries. The proposed cross-fertilization would yield for visitors an enlightened engagement between the museum’s two central themes and open possibilities for curatorial juxtapositions. Inside the Stone Cloud the two core spheres loop through one another so that visitors to the NAAMHC can learn how what has happened before crafts our shared vision for the future.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro