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National Museum of African American History and Culture construction site. (Michael Barnes/Smithsonian Institution, NMAAHC)

Lonnie Bunch can see the finish line.

The founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture promised Thursday that the 19th Smithsonian museum will open in 18 months with a series of

11 exhibitions focused on history, community and culture.

A sample of the planned

exhibitions opens Friday in its temporary space in the National Museum of American History. “Through the African-American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection” features a shawl worn by Harriet Tubman, a uniform worn by a Pullman porter, James Brown’s red jumpsuit and James Baldwin’s copy of his play “Blues for Mister Charlie.”

“Ten years ago, we began with a staff of two, we didn’t know where our building would be, and we didn’t have a single artifact. All we had were the hopes and expectations of generations,” Bunch said. “It was our job to make their deferred dreams real. We are 18 months away.”

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