Noose found at African American history museum in D.C.

May 31 (Reuters) - A noose, a symbol of racial lynching, was found on Wednesday on the floor of an exhibit about segregation at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution officials said.

A gallery at the museum on the National Mall was partially closed for about three hours, and U.S. Park Police were called in to investigate what was described by the museum's director as a "horrible act."

"The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans," Director Lonnie Bunch said in an email to museum staff sent to Reuters by a museum spokeswoman.

42 PHOTOS
National Museum of African American History and Culture
See Gallery
National Museum of African American History and Culture
WASHINGTON, DC AUGUST 9: The first direct morning sun paints the Washington Monument a shade of red near the Smithsonian Institute''s National Museum of African American History and Culture - NMAAHC - on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, in Washington, DC. The new museum is scheduled to open to the public September 24 of this year. When viewed from particular angles, the two structures fit together like puzzle pieces. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC AUGUST 9: A statue depicting USA track and field athletes Tommie Smith, C, and John Carlos, R, as they raised gloved fists during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics is housed in the Sports Gallery of The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African American History and Culture on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, in Washington, DC. The Museum will open to the public September 24 of this year, 2016. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication of the Smithsonianâs National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 22: Construction crews work 70-feet deep among the 'support of excavation walls' of the The National Museum of African American History and Culture Museum in Washington, DC on February 22, 2013. The museum will feature a below-ground level of exhibits in addition to the three above ground. The Smithsonian has even hosted a construction webcam on an adjacent museum for people to see the work in real time. (http://nmaahc.si.edu/Building/Camera) The museum construction site is adjacent to the Washington Monument and is in the excavation and support phase. It's set to be completed and open to the public in 2015. Construction officials are working on the site six days a week, snow, rain or heatwave until the work is finished. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 8: Exhibits, including one called 'Taking the Stage,' are coming together in the fourth floor Culture Galleries of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, NMAAHC, on Friday, July 8, 2016, in Washington, DC. The museum opens to the public on Saturday, September 24, 2016. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former first lady Laura Bush (3rd L) holds a shovel at a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington February 22, 2012. The museum is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: Journalists tour the David M. Rubenstein History Galleries on the lower levels of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture during the press preview on the National Mall September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Filled with exhibits and artifacts telling the story of the first Africans in the United States and their descendents, the 400,000-square-foot museum will open to the public on September 24. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Singer Patti LaBelle sings during the dedication of the Smithsonianâs National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Washington DC, USA ? NOVEMBER 5, 2016: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at sunset on November 5, 2016 in Washington DC.
U.S. first lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu look at the Contemplative Court fountain during a visit to the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
An airplane is viewed during a press preview at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC on September 14, 2016. / AFP / PRESTON KERES (Photo credit should read PRESTON KERES/AFP/Getty Images)
Reflected in glass, a woman stands in front of metal screening panels which make up the ?corona? that encloses the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington September 14, 2016. The museum will open to the public on September 24. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during the dedication of the Smithsonianâs National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) speaks at the dedication of the Smithsonianâs National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A woman passes a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King as she arrives for the ground breaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)
A media member looks at rock music icon Chuck Berry's 1973 Cadillac during a press preview at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC on September 14, 2016. / AFP / PRESTON KERES (Photo credit should read PRESTON KERES/AFP/Getty Images)
First lady Michelle Obama hugs Piper Shillingfort of Brooklyn, NY during the groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington February 22, 2012. The museum is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Preparations are made for the dedication of the Smithsonian?s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama hugs former U.S. President George W. Bush as she arrives with U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Laura Bush for the dedication of the Smithsonianâs National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: Instruments, costumes and other artifacts, including the Funkadelic P-Funk Mothership, fill the in the Musical Crossroads section of the fourth floor Culture Galleries at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture during the press preview on the National Mall September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Filled with exhibits and artifacts telling the story of the first Africans in the United States and their descendents, the 400,000-square-foot museum will open to the public on September 24. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Washington Monument rises behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington September 14, 2016. The museum is holding a media preview today ahead of its opening day on September 24. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A couple pass a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King as they arrive for the ground breaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)
A worker guides a beam during construction of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture continues on the National Mall May 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
The Washington Monument rises behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington September 14, 2016. The museum is holding a media preview today ahead of its opening day on September 24. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: Platinum records, orginal posters and other artifacts are on display in the Musical Crossroads section of the fourth floor Culture Galleries at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture during the press preview on the National Mall September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Filled with exhibits and artifacts telling the story of the first Africans in the United States and their descendents, the 400,000-square-foot museum will open to the public on September 24. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A man passes by metal screening panels which make up the ?corona? that encloses the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington September 14, 2016. The museum will open to the public on September 24. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The Howard University Showtime Marching Band arrives for the dedication of the Smithsonian?s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Slug: ST/MUSEUM Date: 04.14.2009 Kevin Clark/The Washington Post Neg #: clarkk Washington, DC The winning architectual design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Architect, David Adjaye won the design. (Photo by Kevin Clark/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up alongside Dr. Ben Carson (C), his nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and his wife, Candy (L), as they tour an exhibit about Carson at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, February 21, 2017. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Construction continues on the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture, at 14th St. NW and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The museum is set to open in 2015. (J.M. Eddins Jr./MCT via Getty Images )
WASHINGTON MAY 10: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is situated near the Washington Monument, on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, in Washington, DC. The design of the exterior of the building, which will open to the public September 24 of this year, was inspired by African American ironworkers who crafted iron work in New Orleans and Charleston, SC. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
HYATTSVILLE, MD JANUARY 28: Renee Anderson, head of collections, handles a Buffalo Soldiers bible from around 1913 and a 1966 pamphlet for the Black Panther Party of Lowndes County, Alabama, a couple of the artifacts destined for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) at a Smithsonian warehouse on Thursday, January 28, 2016, in Hyattsville, MD. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
HYATTSVILLE, MD JANUARY 28: Linda Landry, conservator, Renee Anderson, head of collections, and Laura Manaker, collections manager, handle a 1971 horse saddle used by Ernie Robinson, one of the artifacts destined for the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) at a Smithsonian warehouse on Thursday, January 28, 2016, in Hyattsville, MD. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC AUGUST 9: The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African American History and Culture, NMAAHC, sits near the Washington Monument on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, in Washington, DC. The Museum will open to the public September 24 of this year, 2016. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 6: Exhibits, including one called 'Taking the Stage,' are coming together in the fourth floor Culture Galleries of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, NMAAHC, on Wednesday, July 6, 2016, in Washington, DC. The museum opens to the public on Saturday, September 24, 2016. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON MAY 10: Views of the base of the Washington Monument can be seen from the upper floors of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Tuesday, May, 10, 2016, in Washington, DC. The Museum will open to the public September 24 of this year, 2016. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication of the Smithsonianâs National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
National Museum of African American History and Culture
A statue is viewed during a press preview at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC on September 14, 2016. / AFP / PRESTON KERES (Photo credit should read PRESTON KERES/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: Steel and glass create patterns and reflections inside the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture during the press preview on the National Mall September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Filled with exhibits and artifacts telling the story of the first Africans in the United States and their descendents, the 400,000-square-foot museum will open to the public on September 24. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Bunch said museum officials do not know who was responsible and told staff the incident "is a stark reminder why the work you do is so important."

A U.S. Park Police spokeswoman confirmed the agency was investigating but declined to provide any further details.

The incident comes less than a week after a noose was found hanging from a tree outside the nearby Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian.com, an affiliated news organization, said.

Speaking at a dedication ceremony in September 2016 for the $540 million African American museum, then-President Barack Obama said the facility tells the story of black America, and "helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are."

The museum contains about 36,000 items that trace the journey of African Americans from slavery in the 1800s to the fight for civil rights in the 20th century and beyond.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is part of the Smithsonian, which includes 19 museums, including the Hirshhorn and galleries and the National Zoological Park.

It had 30.2 million visits last year, according to its website.

"The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity," the institution's secretary, David Skorton, told the staff in an internal email. "We will not be intimidated."

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.