As is every responsible blogger's duty, I occasionally search through past posts looking for topics that could provide a followup worthy of your valuable readin' time. Needless to say, this can be a bleak and cheerless task as some of the subjects of previous posts have passed into the great unknown, never to be resurrected. Sometimes, however, a quest for new news yields such high levels of goodness that it's nearly impossible for me not to engage in my trademark happy dance, which you will just have to imagine 'cause the public display of a dance that dangerously joyous would most likely drive us all to madness.
And so it is that some weeks ago I decided to find out what, if anything, could be learned about the fate of America's Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM)--a priceless cultural and educational institution that had its home here in Milwaukee and had no equal anywhere in the world. The last I had heard, ABHM had been forced to close its doors due to financial hardship and its original website had been taken down. As we know all too well, history does not often tell uplifting stories of institutions that begin a free fall into the waiting arms of death, and I braced myself for the worst.
Well, boy howdy, was I wrong! And I've never been more giddy to be wrong, wrong, wrong. A quick search revealed that ABHM is still alive and busy teachin' us all, albeit solely on the Interwebs™. Oh Happy Day!
For those unfamiliar with ABHM, the Museum was founded by the late Dr. James Cameron, a Wisconsin native and the only known survivor of a lynching, which took place on August 7, 1930 in Marion, Indiana. Dr. Cameron turned this horrific experience into a catalyst for seeking racial and social justice, and he opened ABHM in 1984 as the nation's only memorial institution dedicated to the documentation of and education of the public about the grave injustices and brutal treatment suffered by people of African heritage in the United States.
Having perused the new ABHM website extensively, I contacted Dr. Fran Kaplan, Executive Director, to get the lowdown on this positive turn o' events. Seems the decision to reopen ABHM as a virtual museum was both an extremely practical and super smart one. In terms of finances, of course, the low-overhead of a website easily trumps the constant resource-sucking voracity of a brick-and-mortar space, leaving more moola to invest in programming. In addition to the monetary benefits, a virtual museum has the potential to reach and teach millions, even billions of people all over the planet.
Kaplan was keen to point out that ABHM is a "true" virtual museum. That is, while there are plenty of museums that maintain information and/or galleries online, those websites serve only as support mechanisms and marketing tools for the physical museums. By contrast, the ABHM site is a destination in and of itself. All information and galleries are posted there for the edification of everyone, and no one misses out just because they can't travel to Milwaukee.
Though the new ABHM will turn just 2 years old this February 25, it's already received 120,000 unique visitors from 189 countries. The site is filled with a huge amount of important information, including videos featuring scholar-griots--i.e. oral historians in the West African tradition--who serve as guides and other documentary footage, and new content is uploaded regularly.
What does the future hold? More, more, more! Also, as Dr. Kaplan informed me, there are plans to introduce historically accurate interactive games as well as a series of webinars to increase visitor participation and expand educational offerings. The Museum has an impressive International Advisory Committee and some discussion has taken place about the possibility of broadening its scope to include the larger Pan-African history and its issues, but that would be a gigantic undertaking. After all, the history of the African-American experience has yet to be fully and truthfully told, not to mention yet to be fully and truthfully incorporated into the whole of American history, so let's not get ahead of ourselves, eh?
For those of us lucky enough to live in the Milwaukee area, we can take advantage of some in person special events ABHM is presenting, like the film series Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle. The schedule is as follows:
2. Tuesday, March 11, 2014
814 West Wisconsin Avenue
3. Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Slavery By Another Name
Villard Square Library
5190 North 35th Street
4. Monday, May 12, 2014
Bay View Library
2566 South Kinnickinnic Avenue
I have it on the ultimate authority that more events will be scheduled, so stay tuned. And FYI, just to prove that the Museum is gettin' local folks excited even without a physical presence, its Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation event in celebration Dr. James Cameron's 100th Birthday on February 23 is SOLD OUT, baby! Now that's what we call success.
Okay, so click on over to the resurrected America's Black Holocaust Museum and learn yourself somethin'. Click now and keep right on clickin' into the future. While you're there during what no doubt will be your many visits, maybe you could chip in a bit to keep this vital virtual institution going? I knew that you would.