Across the country, people are starting to venture out into museums and cultural spaces again after months of closures and uncertainty. Visitors are coming back in numbers as big, at least, to meet the reduced-capacity limits imposed during the pandemic. It's a welcome sign that highlights how in times of crisis the role of art becomes even more central to our lives.
Not only are familiar places opening their doors, plenty of new museums are preparing to attract their very first visitors. Art, design, history, language and even sport are being celebrated at new institutions across the country. While we should note that not every institution has the fortune or privilege to operate now, it's worth recognizing those that are trying. If you want new and original experiences to look forward to, these are some of the best new and new-ish museum openings.
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures - Los Angeles
Cinephiles will have a new place to celebrate movie magic in Los Angeles when this museum opens in September 2021. Dedicated to the past, present and future of cinema, the museum will open with a temporary exhibition that celebrates the 60-year career of Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki. The museum is backed by the Academy, the group that runs the Oscars, and will open as a monument to movie history in the City of Stars. Permanent highlights include the 1000-seat David Geffen Theater, the glass Barbra Streisand Bridge and artefacts from beloved films.
The Pocket Museum - Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Can you find Mississippi's smallest museum? That's the challenge you accept to visit this quirky little museum in Hattiesburg. Tucked away in a secret alleyway, there are clues all around the town that point to its exact location. Getting there is half the fun. When you reach it, you'll be treated to art displays and miniature vignettes that change every month so visitors can experience something new each time. In the spirit of inclusivity, the public is encouraged to submit their own work to be featured from time to time. Over 14,000 visited the mini museum within two months of its opening date last August. The Pocket Museum is open 24/7 and is free to visit.
Makeup Museum - New York City
The world's first make-up museum opened its doors in New York City last fall with a debut exhibition dedicated to the history of make-up and its impact on society. Beauty gurus can explore the ways in which ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians enhanced their looks with unusual, and sometimes dangerous, tools. Then they can follow the evolution of cosmetics and beauty standards throughout history. There are some really fun elements like masterclasses and touchless, interactive displays that house unusual and unique beauty products. The museum is currently closed due to COVID restrictions but is expected to reopen in fall.
National Museum of African American Music - Nashville
Nashville further cements its place as a music mecca with the National Museum of African American Music. Located in downtown Nashville, the museum highlights how fundamental African American music has been to the soundtrack of our lives with hands-on, interactive displays that celebrate genres from jazz to rap, soul, pop, rock, house music and more. It's the first-of-its-kind institution and has been 20 years in-the-making, which means every detail has been carefully considered, before opening this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Harriet Tubman Museum - Cape May
We have another reason to celebrate the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman with this new museum on the Jersey Shore. Located in the revamped former Macedonia Baptist Church on Lafayette Street in Cape May, the museum explores Tubman's time as a domestic laborer and cook in Cape May during 1850s, while casting its net wider to look at the social justice movement in the African American community from the 1800s through to present. Its September 2021 opening date was pushed back with the pandemic but a revised ldate is set to be announced soon.
Planet Word - Washington, D.C.
Dubbed the world’s first voice-activated museum, Planet Word opened last October in the Franklin School in DC. It celebrates words through immersive displays that are enjoyable ways to see how, when it comes to language, we take so much for granted. Guests can hone their skills at public speaking, follow lyrical sentences through karaoke sessions, and even paint a literal picture with words using digital brushstrokes.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum - Colorado Springs
The first museum to honor and celebrate Team USA athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic, opened in July 2020 in Colorado Springs. What's really special about this place is that it's one of the most accessible and interactive museums in the world. Visitors customize their journey by choosing their sport preferences and accessibility needs for a a 360-degree immersive experience. Some designs and technology include open captions, audio-description tracks, assisted listening, universal keypads, RFID-triggered customizations, and accessible exhibit spaces with ramped experiences.
The LUME at Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art - Indianapolis
One of the world's most popular multi-sensory exhibitions is coming to the US for the first. The LUME Indianapolis is a multi-sensory exhibition that brings the work of Vincent Van Gogh to life through moving digital displays, musical soundscapes, colorful lights and even scents. The exhibition has been presented in more than 50 cities worldwide but will have a permanent home in the US at Newfields by occupying the museum’s entire fourth floor with nearly 30,000 sq ft of immersive, digital art. Slated to open in July 2021, it's one of the most-anticipated museum launches of 2021.
This article was first published in October 2020 and updated in May 2021.