NMAAHC Study Day

SAH Study Day
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
8:30 AM – 5:30 PM

$135 per person (limited to 35 participants)
Fellowship Deadline: Friday, August 24, 2018, 11:59 PM CST
Registration Deadline: Friday, September 7, 2018, 11:59 PM CST

>> Registration opens at 3 PM CST on Tuesday, July 24

Join SAH for a unique opportunity to have private access to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) prior to its public opening and meet with Museum Curator Michelle Joan Wilkinson. Architect Zena Howard and Chief of Construction Derek Ross will lead a tour of the museum that showcases the work of Lead Designer David Adjaye and Lead Architect Philip Freelon for the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup team. 

The NMAAHC is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. The building's location on the National Mall of the United States, adjacent to the National Museum of American History and the Washington Monument, and its design represent the past, present, and future of the African American experience. The corona shape of the building is inspired by the three-tiered crown used in Yoruban art from West Africa and references elements of the Washington Monument. The building's main entrance is a welcoming porch, which has architectural roots in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora. The porch and central water feature extend the building out into the landscape. The ornamental bronze lattice that wraps the building's exterior pays homage to the craftsmanship of enslaved African Americans. The NMAAHC is the first museum on the National Mall designed to sustainability standards, and it interacts with this unique site through the use of natural light, diverse materials, water elements, and panoramic views that enhance the historical and emotional journey of its visitors.

After the tour concludes, you will have the opportunity to participate in the Symposium on Black Architects and Planners or you can spend the day exploring the museum on your own. At the conclusion of the day you can join the group at The Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest saloon, founded in 1856. 


8:15 AM – 8:30 AM
Group arrival in the NMAAHC Lobby

8:30 AM – 8:45 AM
Welcome and introductions

8:45 AM – 10:30 AM
Private tour of the NMAAHC

10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Museum is open to general public
Free time to explore the NMAAHC and exhibitions

11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Symposium on Black Architects and Planners
Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now
Check the NMAAHC website for registration information. No registration fee to attend.
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Informal gathering at The Old Ebbitt Grill (optional)






All photos: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC


SAH Contact:
 Christopher Kirbabas, Director of Programs


Michelle Joan Wilkinson

Museum Curator
National Museum of African American History and Culture

Michelle Joan Wilkinson, PhD is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Wilkinson co-curated two of the inaugural exhibitions for the new museum: A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond and A Century in the Making: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Wilkinson is also developing the museum’s collections in architecture and design.

Prior to NMAAHC, Wilkinson spent six years as Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. In that capacity, she curated over twenty exhibitions, including A People’s Geography: The Spaces of African American Life and two award-winning shows—Material Girls and For Whom It Stands. She has also worked at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

In 2012, as a fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, Wilkinson completed a short-term residency at the Design Museum in London. Wilkinson’s current research project, “V is for Veranda,” about architectural heritage in the Anglophone Caribbean, has been presented to international audiences in Suriname, England, India, and the United States. She holds a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. from Emory University.


Zena Howard
Principal and Managing Director

Zena Howard, FAIA is a Principal and Managing Director of the North Carolina practice of global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. An award-winning architect, strategist, mentor and team builder, Zena is known for her success leading visionary, complex, and culturally-significant projects including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, several libraries for Durham County in Durham, NC, the Anacostia and Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Libraries in Washington, DC, the Motown Museum Expansion in Detroit, MI, and the New Brooklyn Village development initiative in Charlotte, NC.

She is also Managing Principal and Lead Facilitator for the City of Vancouver Hogan’s Alley initiative and the City of Greenville Town Common Sycamore Hill project. Zena is helping these and other clients envision and create cultural destinations that will celebrate the history and context of displaced, forgotten communities.

Zena is an advocate for diversity within the architecture profession, a field where minority and women professionals are historically under-represented. She is a founding member of Perkins+Will’s Diversity + Inclusion Council, and associate professor of architecture at North Carolina State University College of Design.

A North Carolina native, Zena earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Virginia.

Derek Ross
Derek Ross
Deputy Director of the Construction Division
Office of Planning, Design and Construction
Smithsonian Engineering
Derek Ross, RA, LEED AP is Deputy Director of the Construction Division Office of Planning, Design and Construction within the Smithsonian Facilities (SF) at the Smithsonian Institution. The Office is responsible for all the construction projects throughout the 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoological Park of the Smithsonian. 

Ross has served as the Associate Director / Chief of Construction on the construction efforts over the last 25 years. He joined the Smithsonian Institution in 1992 as a Construction Manager responsible for all construction projects on the South Mall. In 1996 Ross was selected as Chief of Construction. The construction of the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, The National Museum of the American Indian, and the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture were completed under his leadership. In addition to his duties as Deputy Director, Ross is the Institution’s Senior Construction Executive on National Museum of African American History and Culture. During his tenure as the Chief of Construction of the Smithsonian, over $1 billion in design and construction has been completed. 

Ross earned a Bachelor of Architecture at The University of Miami, holds current Architecture registrations in the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia, is certified in Erosion and Sediment Control for the State of Maryland and is an accredited professional in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED AP). 


Registration is $135 per person and is non-refundable. Full payment is required at the time of registration. SAH membership is required to attend and may be purchased with registration.

Friday, September 7, 2018, 11:59 PM CST

Admission Fee
Exclusive access to the NMAAHC prior to 10:00 AM opening to the public
Free time in the NMAAHC
NMAAHC Donation
SAH Donation

Airfare, if applicable
Hotel, if applicable
Transportation to/from your home city to the NMAAHC
Post-tour gathering at The Old Ebbitt Grill


An SAH Study Program Fellowship is available for this Study Day and is open to current full-time graduate students and emerging professionals. The fellowship covers the single occupancy price of the tour package and includes a travel stipend of up to $200 intended to provide underwriting for travel to and from Washington, D.C. Visit the Research Fellowships page for full criteria and to apply.

Applications will open at 3 pm on Tuesday, July 24.

Friday, August 24, 2018, 11:59 PM CST


The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) is registered with the American Institute of Architects’ Continuing Education System (AIA CES) to provide learning units for participation in various events offered by SAH. To receive the eligible number of learning units for your transcript, please provide your AIA member number when you register for this program. At the conclusion of the program, SAH will report your earned learning units to AIA and will notify you to review your transcript to ensure it has been officially recorded.


SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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