Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, has been traveling the country - and the globe - and gathering new acquisitions for the museum, which is slated to open in Washington, DC in 2015. New pieces include Michael Jackson's fedora and a pair of middle passage shackles.
Michael Jackson's Victory Tour black fedora with an interior, black leather hat band stamped "By Maddest Hatter … Made expressly for Michael Jackson … 100 percent genuine fur." The hat was caught by an audience member attending the July 31, 1984 Jackson concert at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
It's felt, black, wide-brimmed and one of the most iconic hats in history. On a recent afternoon inside an NPR studio, Michael Jackson's fedora was carefully removed from a box by two museum handlers and displayed on a mat.
The hat is part of the growing collection of artifacts that will make up the permanent collection at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In five years, the museum is set to open up on the National Mall, just under the shadow of the Washington Monument.
It will become the latest Smithsonian museum and the first national museum to celebrate the legacy of Americans of African descent.
Lonnie Bunch is the executive director and museum curator. Much of his time is now spent traveling the country — and the world —searching for artifacts to tell the story of Africans in America.
Bunch stopped by NPR headquarters for a little show-and-tell. Along with Jackson's fedora, Bunch managed to find a powderhorn used by a freed slave named Prince Simbo, who fought with the Connecticut line during the Revolutionary War.
"It really speaks volumes about the commitment of African-Americans to liberty." Bunch told NPR's Guy Raz that not much is known about Simbo, but he clearly saw battle during the war, because he was rewarded after the revolution.