A new Smithsonian museum faced backlash when it announced plans to include Bill Cosby memorabilia. It was further criticized when the museum announced there would be no mention of the sexual assault allegations made against Cosby by over 50 women including supermodel Beverly Johnson who accused Cosby of drugging her. (Cosby's wife Camille recently said she never read his deposition in which he admitted to getting drugs to use them on women for sex.) The National Museum of African American History and Culture has since reversed that decision saying it will in fact include the sexual assault allegations in its exhibit.
The Cosby memorabilia will be a part of the "Taking the Stage" exhibit covering African American entertainers in theater, film, and TV, reports Vulture. Many of Cosby's accusers criticized the museum for including Cosby's memorabilia while others criticized it for not mentioning the sexual assault allegations. According to TIME, Patricia Leary Steuer, one of the women to accuse Cosby, told the New York Times: "If they just speak about the contributions, there will be this enormous presence that is not talked about."
Founding director Lonnie Bunch released a statement about the decision to include the allegations:
"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. 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. 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."
Cosby's legacy may be "severely damaged" but what of the women whose lives have been severely damaged?
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, D.C. in September.