Now this is one of our favorite things! Oprah Winfrey is getting her own exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC — and the talk show queen herself thinks it’s a “really big deal.”
The exhibit, titled “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture,” runs from Friday, June 8 through June 2019 and will feature video clips, interviews, personal photos, journal entries, and even clothing from Oprah. It will track her life from her childhood in the 1950s to her talk show fame at the end of the 20th century and her philanthropy in the new millennium. “We’re providing a context for understanding not only who she is, but how she became a global figure, and how she is connected to broader stories and themes,” co-curator Kathleen Kendrick, who worked with Oprah’s people on the exhibit, told The Washington Post.
“What’s interesting is the same way America thought about Walter Cronkite — you could trust Walter Cronkite and his opinion — they trust Oprah,” museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III said. “An African American woman becomes the person America turns to.” Kendrick added, “She used television as a social medium, convening conversations and creating these interactive experiences with people. She’s offering lessons for living, social guidance in a way.”
Oprah donated $21 million to the museum — which opened in September 2016 with a theater named after her — but this exhibit honors her as a cultural icon and not a benefactor. “We made sure there was a bright line, that this was done by the museum and museum scholars,” Bunch explained. “The fundraising was not through Oprah’s people.”
The 64-year-old reflected on the news on the June 5 episode of CBS This Morning, co-hosted by her best friend Gayle King. “As I was thinking about it last night, I thought, ‘This is a really big deal,” Oprah said. “And the thing that makes me the most proud is watching The Oprah Winfrey Show and its impact on the culture, because it’s been off the air for seven years as of May 25, and there is not a day that I go anywhere in the world that there aren’t several people who come up to me and tell me about the impact the show has had on them. And that is no small thing for me.”
The museum administration timed the buzzworthy exhibit in anticipation of a drop in attendance — a drop that actually never came. Having hosted 3.8 million visitors since its opening, the National Museum of African American History and Culture ranks as one of Washington DC’s most popular attractions… and that’s before The Oprah Effect!