Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Victoria Young

Second Advisor

Heather M. Shirey

Third Advisor

Jayme Yahr


The built environment communicates a narrative simply through its location and
attachment to the surrounding landscape. The design of a building, and the calculated and uncalculated individual experience and layout within it, aids in producing meaning and consequently a memory of the intended purpose of the structure. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, also known as the NMAAHC, is a museum that fought to be built for over one hundred years. Because this history of America has not been acknowledged along the National Mall before, it needed a transformative design which left room for visitors to contemplate while honoring the tangled history of America. In order to achieve this, the museum’s founding director Lonnie Bunch and the architects from the Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group used memorial design elements for intentional visitor engagement. This can be seen within the iconography of the corona, the overall structure of the building, and the use of material. The exhibitions include personal narrative, individual stories and artifacts, and experiential features. The Paradox of Liberty is an art installation designed to engage viewers in a more complete and honest narrative of the time surrounding the Declaration of Independence. Authentic artifacts are utilized in the Emmett Till Memorial to transport visitors and call them to action. Contemplative Court is a sacred, healing space which gives visitors the opportunity to reflect and recover from the dark American history that has not always been told. These qualities were designed to encourage a more influential understanding of the content.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.