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MLK and Archbishop Iakovos highlighted at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

People cross 14th Street as the Museum of African American History and Culture debuted its building with a short 3-D film projected onto the walls. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture shone a light Monday on a major milestone — the completion of exterior construction — by lighting up the museum itself.

At a gathering that director Lonnie Bunch called the museum’s “very first event,” he promised an opening in a year’s time and unveiled a large-scale projection that will be visible to passersby for the next two nights.

“There are few things as noble as remembering all our ancestors,” Bunch told the crowd, which featured a number of high-profile names, including one of the museum’s architects, David Adjaye, and longtime civil rights advocate Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

The night’s showpiece was a 7 1/2 -minute film that rendered those ancestors larger than life. It cast more than a hundred years of African American progress across the five-story building, illuminating the museum with the faces of Marian Anderson, Frederick Douglass, black soldiers and dozens of others recognized in history books and not.

The high-tech projection, “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom,” flitted from the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in 1865, to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, dancing across the west and south walls of the new museum.

The display will continue through Wednesday, turning on each evening at 5:30 and going dark at 9 p.m.

[Excerpt taken from The Washington Post, by Lavanya Ramanathan]

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