The Black Panther suit (all images from Marvel Cinematic Universe, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

The Black Panther suit (all images from Marvel Cinematic Universe, courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

If you’re looking for a good excuse to shout “WAKANDA FOREVER!” this week, the National Museum of African American History and Culture announced its acquisition of a coterie of objects associated with the Black Panther movie, most importantly, the iconic costume worn by Chadwick Boseman in the role of Prince T’Challa, aka Black Panther.

Based on the Marvel comic, the cinematic version of Black Panther shattered box office records and redefined ideas about the target demographic for superhero movies (as well as making the crossover to real-world affairs in the form of a billion-dollar investment in a forthcoming STEM Center of Innovation in Oakland). Also, the majority of people who saw the movie were inspired to dramatically rap anything resembling a spear against the floor for a solid month after seeing it.

Alongside a signed shooting script, a two-page spec script, and 24 production photographs, the Black Panthersuit will be on display at the NMAAHC during its inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival (SAAFF). All attendees of the film festival will get a special holographic inner-lip tattoo that grants them access to the Black Panther exhibit, along with their movie passes.

The Black Panther suit

As the first superhero of African descent to feature in mainstream American comics, and the first chapter within the voluble Marvel cinema franchise to focus on a narrative almost entirely concerned with people of color, the Smithsonian is understandably eager to embrace Black Panther as a high watermark for the progression of black actors, characters, and storylines in film.

Black Panther is also, of course, ideal for SAAFF, which is billed as a multi-day cinematic experience to take place biennially, focused on celebrating African American visual culture and film — with the first iteration slated for October 24–27 of this year. These exhibition dates will hopefully give the curatorial team long enough to figure out how to unfold the suit from the necklace that conceals it when not in use, as well as enable special training for security at the nearby sister Smithsonian, the National Museum of African Art, in case any antiquities enthusiasts show up trying to purloin artifacts that are secretly made of vibranium.

Black Panther mask

These small concerns aside, the NMAAHC can look forward to providing Black Panther fans with another way to get inside their favorite story — although one suspects the museum will also have to take extreme precautionary measures to prevent nightshift workers from trying on the suit and heading out for selfies on the roof of the nearest Lexus they can find. I sure as hell would.


Black Panther 

The Black Panther movie items will be on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (1400 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC) during its inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival, which will run October 24–27.

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...

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