Honoring the people keeping history alive

ABC News’ Kyra Phillips sits down with Lonnie Bunch, the first African American secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
5:10 | 04/16/21

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Transcript for Honoring the people keeping history alive
So often we hear about the importance of knowing our past to understand our president but importance of getting to know the people who collected that history. ABC's cure Phillips sat down with the first ever African American secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. To discuss this past year in history and role he and the institution play. Let us use history to inspire us to push a country. Help us believe that all things are possible. From his prestigious perch within the story Smithsonian castle. Your listening to a promise doctor Lonnie bunch made to himself at the age of ten. When you were a little boy and you wanted to visit museums your dad would only drop you off in front of the Smithsonian. Why. He pulled in the Washington. Stopped in front of the Smithsonian and seeing here is a place where you can understand yourself. Your history and not have to worry about the burden of the color your skin so Keating is unbelievably humbling to. Feel part of it. And it's a chance frightening to be in charge of it. In charge of the world's largest network of museum's. Nineteen of them plus 21 libraries and the national zoo. Bunch is also the Smithsonian's. First African American secretary. The death of George Floyd. Class lives matter to protest the insurrection. Do you feel added pressure because you are an African American. And you have this duty to. Betray history. At the highest levels. Well to be honest as a black man I've always had to pressure regardless of where job virus did so what I think as an African American. What's really being the key to my sort of understanding. Myself and history is how does a country find fairness. How does a country make sure that freedom really rings for everybody the Smithsonian doesn't have a political agenda. Our goal is to make a country better. And to find hope. Through history. Welcome to the bowels of the basement. In the National Museum of American History. Their catalogs are photographed defense has their amended. For the first time you're getting an exclusive look. How are past year of a pandemic. And racial reckoning will be remembered here in the Smithsonian. Forever and that's the very first Pfizer vaccine does first advisor vaccine given in the United States this is an unprecedented sneak peek. In day history preserved in. Not just for Ross has they felt so passionately about a cause but also this museum's first female director doctor and Tina hearty. We have to collect your remember. Reminding us all then our future lives in preserving the past am I next. Thanks to curators who sit Shearer and these collections. Everything we see here when it was ending. Frank plaza which is with the Smithsonian's in the rapid response teams and collectors and discounts during historical crises. Like this infamous day in our nation's capital. There was tres kind of scattered everywhere but frank took his back to where he saved those signs you'd just saw now archive within the Smithsonian's insight thankfully animals he tore my vehicle and was able to. Break the Rivet off and I had to kick the sign physically free of the post. To take a back into the Smithsonian for our collection. And where he toured today's trash after that Capitol Hill insurrection. I found two American flags. I found a file folder of copies of the battle hymn of the republic. An abolitionist song composed or more in a mile from here. And I even found a small personal defense and whipped forehand baton that had been very down in the bottom of a trash cans. And man's trash is another man's treasure in this case America's treasure found in the trash collecting today. For tomorrow heavy want to see the Smithsonian. Make an impact on social justice. Question really is. Is it a moment where we take advantage of where we are. Is it a moment where. Here in the midst of the trial around the murderer George Floyd do we say. What kind of country do we want to be what does fairness really mean in the 21 century as many people who said it's a struggle for the soul of America. A struggle secretary bunch since will be protected. And preserved I come out of the community events said. You will stand on the shoulders of others and you won't open the door for others and you will be better so when I want is the country's only. Is to recognize that when America comes together it's amazing weekend. Well living up to that promise he made to himself. Decades ago to demand the country live up to its stated I.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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