“You gotta make a dollar,” he said, adding that he hauled the cutouts onto the National Mall “so I can see it, be it and participate.”
Police eventually kicked him off the mall for asking for money. Now, Davis’ cardboard images might be fit for a museum. He said he would donate them if his wife approves.
The museum has amassed more than 300 Obama-related items, including furniture from a 2008 campaign office in northern Virginia and a cloth banner from Tanzania with an Obama portrait and message reading “Congratulations Barack Obama.”
Curators might also try to acquire items from the inauguration platform, including, perhaps, the invocation written by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Evers was gunned down 50 years ago in the driveway of his Mississippi home. That history became a link between Obama and the civil rights era.
When the museum opens in 2015 near the Washington Monument, one floor will be devoted to a chronology of African-American history, from 16th century slavery through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the civil rights era and beyond. The timeline will end with Obama and the 2008 election as a symbolic moment.
“Portraying a living individual is always more challenging,” Pretzer said. “You don’t have the perspective, and you don’t have all the evidence.”
The exhibits can evolve later to show Obama’s impact and what comes next.
In planning for the future display, Pretzer and other curators listened closely to Obama’s inauguration speech.
“Part of the dynamic is no longer, if it ever were, white and black. The dynamic is now generational. It is gender; he mentioned gay rights, so sexuality; as well as race,” Pretzer said. “It was an ‘E Pluribus Unum’ speech. It was ‘out of many, one.’”
Museum Director Lonnie Bunch said Obama’s speech was more progressive and aggressive than his first inaugural. It framed the ongoing issues of women’s rights, gay rights and immigration in the context of the historic struggle for equality.
“It reminded people that the story of America is not just about today and tomorrow, but it’s also about yesterday,” Bunch said. “The way he framed his discussion was: ‘This history is not a black history. This is a history that has transformed America.’
“The question becomes, how effective is his administration as a model for what the presidency can accomplish?”