The exhibition will be held at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
Titled Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture, the exhibition will open on 8 June 2018 and will remain on display until June 2019. It aims to use Oprah as a lens to explore a chapter of modern American life.
Kathleen Kendrick, one of the curators of the exhibition, told The Washington Post: “We’re providing a context for understanding not only who she is, but how she became a global figure, and how she is connected to broader stories and themes.”
There are three primary sections to the exhibition: ‘America Shapes Oprah’, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ and ‘Oprah Shapes America’.
‘Watching Oprah’ will be housed in the museum’s Special Exhibitions Gallery and spans some 130 square metres. The exhibition will document Winfrey’s influence and work through videos, costumes, photographs and journals.
Artefacts on display include Winfrey’s Presidential Medal of Freedom (presented to her by Barack Obama), leather chairs and a desk from the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show and many of the outfits she wore on air. There is no word on whether the couch Tom Cruise infamously jumped on during one episode made it into the display.
The ‘America Shapes Oprah’ section also collects artefacts from those who influenced the young Winfrey. It features the high school diploma earned by Carlotta Walls LaNier, a member of the ‘Little Rock Nine’, the first group of African American students to attend the Arkansas high school in 1957. Other items works by graphic artist Elizabeth Catlett and the pennant carried by a 12-year-old Edith Lee Payne at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
For 25 seasons and 4,561 episodes, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” reflected and influenced American society.
— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) June 4, 2018
Oprah the icon
Very few living individuals have been the subject of a museum exhibition, but Oprah’s influence across the media, philanthropy, politics and popular culture has been profound and unprecedented. She has been described as the first self-made African American woman to become a billionaire.
Her talk show was on the air from 1986 to 2011 and averaged between 10–20 million viewers, making it the highest-rated daytime talk show in American television history.
Winfrey recently acknowledged the enduring popularity of the show and the central role it has played in many peoples’ lives.
“There is not a day that I go anywhere in the world that there aren’t several people who come up to me and tell me about the impact the show has had on them and that is no small thing for me,” Winfrey said. “People tell the story of coming home at 4 o’clock and turning on the TV and watching with their mothers.”
Winfrey recently appeared in TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people.There is also ongoing speculation she will run for the US Presidency as a Democratic Party candidate in 2020.