National Museum of African American History and Culture artifacts installed

WASHINGTON - Crews are installing two large artifacts inside the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture while it's still under construction on the National Mall.

Museum officials on Sunday were overseeing the installation of a segregated Southern Railway train car made by the Pullman Company in 1922. The passenger car was modified to have segregated seating to comply with Jim Crow laws at the time.

"I was captivated by it," said Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "To be able to walk in and see a large compartment for the white community to go through a narrow passageway and suddenly you're in a smaller Jim Crow section and I know we had to have it."

The donated car took 18 months to restore, costing the museum nearly $800,000.

The other large piece being installed is a prison tower from Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Curators had been looking for items to illustrate the incarceration of black people in the 20th century and the practice's links to slavery.

"I want people to feel changed, I want people to feel that this isn't an African-American story, but an American story," said Bunch.

Greenbelt resident Rick Berry and his wife Linette waited three-and-a-half hours for this moment, but a lifetime for the opportunity.

"Emotionally, I'm happy that they're putting it somewhere that people won't forget," said Berry.

And it's certainly in an area people won’t miss -- the $500 million project sits in the shadow on the Washington Monument.

Both pieces are being lowered into the museum construction site by cranes. They're too large to install once the museum building is complete in 2015.

NewsChannel 8's Kristen Holmes and Whitney Wild also contributed to this report.