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The National Museum of African American History and Culture just started to phase out their times passes. The museum, which will officially be open for two years this September, has quickly become one of (if not the most) popular museum on the Mall, welcoming in people from all over the United States (and the world). Since its first day, lines have been out the door. Only recently has it been a little easier to get in, although, timed passes are still required if you want to visit over the weekend. Their newest exhibition, “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” is going to change that.

Get ready for lines to stretch around the sidewalk and for the timed passes to come back.

Watching OprahWatching Oprah

The core of what makes the NMAAHC such an incredible museum is distilled into “Watching Oprah”. Like it’s cornerstone exhibitions, it shows off their incredible research and curating skills. There is so much to read, look at, and yes, watch, you could spend hours wandering around “Watching Oprah” and you’d barely make a dent in it. But more than that, the curators at NMAAHC are able to take that information, the baby pictures, the outfits, the handwritten notes on scripts and make them all feel alive all while framing them in their historical context.

And it’s that historical context that elevates the exhibition and makes it such a meaningful retrospective. The exhibition is segmented into five sections, but it’s these three categories that shine through: American Shapes Oprah, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Oprah Shapes America. The exhibition kicks off in the 1950’s (Winfrey was born in 1954) and dives straight into the racism and sexism of the time, as well as the burgeoning social change. Highlights include photos from the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a pennant from the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom, as well as photos of a baby Oprah and her family.

As you move through the exhibition, more and more TVs start to pop up. Of course, you’ll be wowed by the costumes and outfits (including her white, beaded dress from The Color Purple and the famous red skirt suit worn when she gave away all those cars) and your heart will be warmed by the stories of her friends and colleagues, but more than anything, we found ourselves stopping and well… Watching Oprah. Just soaking in clips and montages from her talk show as if it had never gone off the air.

That’s the beauty of the exhibition. Just like The Oprah Winfrey Show, it sucks you in right from the get go.

She’s also one of the museum’s major donors, so that helps too.