November 22 2019 - Current
“Now Showing!” is the first exhibition in the National Museum of African American History and Culture to feature augmented reality (AR). Through AR, visitors will have the unique opportunity to have an interactive experience with objects inside the gallery by using their mobile devices. Once inside the exhibition, visitors will log onto hi.si.edu on their mobile web browser from their smart device and view exclusive content on various objects inside the exhibition. Many of the items featured in “Now Showing!” are from the Richards Collection, a poster collection acquired by the museum in 2013 that includes more than 700 objects. This exhibition features original posters, lobby cards and select ephemera highlighting more than 70 years of African American image making.
The exhibition is divided into four sections: Film Pioneers, The Problem of the Color Line, A Star Is Born and Black Power & Blaxploitation. Each thematic category highlights the role African American films have played on the perception of African American culture and society as a whole.This exhibition introduces visitors to films featuring African Americans that they may be less familiar with, and at the same time, it recognizes some of the most historically and culturally relevant films made over a 70-year period.
The significant artistry and design work that goes into creating not only the films, but the posters that promote the films, is not to be underestimated. When one explores the long-standing history of African American images on screen, these posters become significant artifacts about the perception and perspective of race, gender and culture that has been a part of our social landscape for decades.”In the first section of the exhibition, Film Pioneers, visitors can view some of the earliest influencers in African American cinema, like actors Laurence Criner, Ralph Cooper and Lena Horn. This section also examines how non-black filmmakers created content for patrons excited to see black performers on the silver screen.
The Problem of the Color Line examines the phenomena known as “passing,” where a mixed-race person passes as an accepted member of another racial group to avoid discrimination. A Star Is Born shows how increased interest in films helped create celebrities, increased representation in films and instilled a sense of pride in black communities across the country due to increased number of African Americans appearing in this new medium. The exhibition concludes with Black Power & Blaxploitation, which highlights the rise of movies geared toward black audiences in the 1960s–70s. During this era, Blaxploitation films centered around black casts and were usually set in and around urban environments. These films often brought black communities together by promoting black empowerment and breaking down racial barriers.