The National Museum of African American History and Culture is rapidly gearing up for its grand opening this September in Washington, but for the past few days, the museum’s curators have been under scrutiny for one of the featured exhibitions. “Taking the Stage,” an exhibition that will explore the history of African American involvement in entertainment (film, television, stage), will feature work from Bill Cosby — but, in light of the numerous sexual assault accusations brought against the comedian, many have taken issue with his inclusion.
In a statement released yesterday, however, the museum’s founding director Lonnie G. Bunch III declared that the museum would feature mention of the assault allegations within the exhibition. Beginning with, “There have been many misconceptions and mistaken notions about the presence of Bill Cosby within the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibition,” Bunch insisted that “this is not an exhibition that ‘honors or celebrates’ Bill Cosby but one that acknowledges his role, among many others, in American entertainment.”
He references the frequent erasure of African American history as being the primary reason that the museum “respectfully disagrees” with those that thought Cosby’s work should be completely removed from the exhibition — claiming that the museum is seeking to tell an “unvarnished truth” — but guarantees that, even with his inclusion, “visitors will leave the exhibition…recognizing that his legacy has been severely damaged by recent accusations.”
Elsewhere, Bunch mentioned that, “Like all of history, our interpretation of Bill Cosby is a work in progress, something that will continue to evolve as new evidence and insights come to the fore.”
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is a part of the Smithsonian, will showcase more than 3,000 different artifacts. Cosby’s presence, even within the “Taking the Stage” exhibition, specifically, is said to be small — “limited to a few artifacts” from his shows I Spy and The Cosby Show, as well as his comedy album I Started Out as a Child.
The museum will be opened by President Obama on September 24, 2016.