Smithsonian to Open History of Hip-Hop Exhibit

For nearly three decades, hip-hop relics such as vinyl records, turntables, microphones and boom boxes have collected dust in boxes and attics.

On Tuesday, pioneering artists Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy and others planned to turn them over to National Museum of American History officials.

The museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is announcing its plans to embark on a collecting initiative, "Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, The Rhymes, The Life."

"It's here to stay, and it's part of American culture just like jazz is part of American history," said Valeska Hilbig, a National Museum spokeswoman.

The project will collect objects that trace hip-hop's origins in the Bronx in the 1970s to its current global reach. It is expected to cost as much as $2 million and take up to five years to complete.

Museum officials have yet to raise the money, which will come from private donors. They plan to use the funds to pay for artifacts, record oral histories, hold consultations with advisory groups and mount an exhibit telling hip-hop's story.

The idea for an exhibition grew out of conversations between Brent D. Glass, the national museum's director, and his childhood friend Mark Shimmel, of Mark Shimmel Music, museum curator Marvette Perez said.

Besides records, boom boxes, mics and turntables, Perez requested photographs, posters, handwritten lyrics, clothing and costumes, videos and interviews and business and personal letters from hip-hop's early artists.

Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, who was scheduled to attend Tuesday's announcement in New York, wouldn't say what he planned to donate. But he called the Smithsonian's recognition a "great statement for hip-hop."

"It's not a signal to the end of hip-hop," said Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label. "We know it will be a lasting fixture. And it should be. All over the world hip-hop is expression of young people's struggles, their frustrations and opinions."

Simmons' brother, Joseph "Rev. Run" Simmons, a member of the seminal rap group Run-DMC, also was scheduled to appear at the announcement.

The Smithsonian isn't the only museum with an interest in hip-hop culture. In the fall of 2000, the Brooklyn Museum of Art put on "Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes & Rage." In June the museum plans to showcase an exhibition of graffiti art, spokesman Adam Husted said.

The Museum of the City of New York plans to hold "Black Style Now" in September on hip-hop's impact on fashion and black fashion designers. And the Experience Music Project, an interactive music museum in Seattle, has featured exhibitions on hip-hop, Perez said.