The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has released a statement defending the planned inclusion of two objects related to Bill Cosby, the pioneering comedian who has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women, in one of its inaugural exhibitions.
The statement asserts that the museum will feature 11 different exhibitions with some 3,000 items when it opens in September on the National Mall in Washington, and only two of the items are related to Cosby. “There is not a Bill Cosby exhibition,” the museum says.
Cosby is represented only in the “Taking the Stage” exhibition, which comprises 150 objects and is dedicated to film, television, and entertainment. The two objects in question “are related to Bill Cosby’s career in TV and comedy — one comic book from I Spy in the TV Pioneers case along with other materials from various TV shows, and the cover of one album I Started Out as a Child (1964) in the comedians case which features six African American comedians: Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, Moms Mabley, Dick Gregory, Godfrey Cambridge and Bill Cosby.”
The statement concludes, “The museum explores a diverse and complex history that reflects how all Americans are shaped by the African American experience.”
The NMAAHC first came under criticism over the weekend when the New York Times reported that “Taking the Stage” would include Cosby-related objects without mentioning the sexual assault allegations against him.
Cosby, 78, and his representatives have consistently denied all accusations of sexual assault or misconduct made by more than 50 women. He has been charged in Pennsylvania with felony aggravated indecent assault and also faces several civil lawsuits. Cosby has countersued some of his accusers.
The Smithsonian Institution previously caused a stir when its National Museum of African Art showcased a substantial amount of art from Cosby’s private collection last year. The museum eventually posted a disclaimer telling visitors the exhibition was “fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby.”
Read the NMAAHC’s full statement above.