Pieces from the Harpo Studio set are featured in the Smithsonian's new temporary exhibit on Oprah Winfrey.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
By Abby Vesoulis
June 11, 2018

Oprah Winfrey ended her iconic daytime talk show in 2011, but it’s already a museum piece.

On Friday, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened a temporary exhibit called “Watching Oprah,” which features artifacts from the set of her talk show, costumes from her movies and interactive interviews with her.

Museum director Lonnie Bunch said Winfrey had become one of the nation’s most well-known media icons while also establishing a level of trust with her audience that few match.

“Oprah has in some ways replaced Walter Cronkite,” he said. “Think about that — a black woman being one of the most trusted people in television.”

Winfrey’s iconic show ran for 25 years, during which she accumulated seven Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host. The exhibit features the red suit she wore on an episode where she gave everyone in the audience a car, a model of her childhood church and a costume from the movie “The Color Purple.”

Winfrey, who has donated over $20 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, was the museum’s largest financial contributor before its 2016 grand opening and has a 350-seat theater named for her there.

But Bunch said the idea for the exhibit came from museum staff and it was put together with a focus on academics.

“We drew a hard line. We made sure only scholars and my staff would shape the ideas,” he said.

The exhibit also traces Winfrey’s involvement in politics.

In 2006, Winfrey publicly announced her desire for then Sen. Barack Obama to run for president. After he announced his candidacy, she joined him on the campaign trail. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award by the former president in 2013.

After a powerful speech on sexual harassment at the Golden Globes in January, Winfrey’s fans took to social media suggesting she should run for president against Trump in 2020, but Winfrey later told InStyle Magazine she would not.

“I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it,” she said.

The exhibit will be open through June of 2019 in the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Washington D.C. location.

Write to Abby Vesoulis at abby.vesoulis@time.com.

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