Smithsonian exhibit to include allegations against Cosby

Story highlights

  • The "Taking the Stage" exhibit includes Cosby artifacts
  • The museum's director defends not removing the actor

(CNN)The National Museum of African American History and Culture wants to make it clear that its inclusion of Bill Cosby in an exhibit is not a celebration of the star.

The museum, which is a part of of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, is set to open in September. It has faced criticism over the news that it would be including artifacts from Cosby's career in a "Taking the Stage" exhibition.
    More than 40 women have accused TV legend Cosby, 78, of sexually assaulting them over four decades. Cosby has denied the accusations, and a statute of limitations prevents prosecution in most of the cases.
    Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum, said in a statement, "There have been many misconceptions and mistaken notions about the presence of Bill Cosby within the National Museum of African American History and Culture's exhibition, 'Taking the Stage,' that explores the history of African American participation in film, theatre and television.
    "This is not an exhibition that 'honors or celebrates' Bill Cosby but one that acknowledges his role, among many others, in American entertainment," the statement said. "Some people feel that the Smithsonian should eliminate all mention of Bill Cosby as a result of recent revelations."
    The museum respectfully disagrees, Bunch wrote.
    "For too long, aspects of African American history have been erased and undervalued, creating an incomplete interpretation of the American past," he said. "This museum seeks to tell, in the words of the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, 'the unvarnished truth' that will help our visitors to remember and better understand what has often been erased and forgotten."
    Instead, the exhibit will acknowledge the scandal.
    "Like all of history, our interpretation of Bill Cosby is a work in progress, something that will continue to evolve as new evidence and insights come to the fore," the statement added. "Visitors will leave the exhibition knowing more about Mr. Cosby's impact on American entertainment, while recognizing that his legacy has been severely damaged by the recent accusations."
    In January, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art ended an exhibit funded by Cosby and his wife, Camille, that showcased works from their private collection.