WILBERFORCE — Hadley Drodge returned last month to the exhibit galleries at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center (NAAMCC) in Wilberforce. After being away for about three months, she visited the designs, descriptions, and historical objects she had helped develop and curate.
She said it was like greeting old friends.
Drodge is the assistant curator at NAAMCC, which closed temporarily on March 14 due to coronavirus restrictions. Staff returned to work in the museum in late June, and the museum reopens to the public next Wednesday.
All exhibits are open, but NAAMCC has canceled all lectures and community programs until next summer.
Drodge said that each exhibit addresses the definition of freedom and the influence of black Americans on the nation. Objects on display range from comic books to clothing.
Each piece is the voice of an individual from the past, according to Drodge.
The museum currently houses three exhibits: “What’s in Your Attic? Selections from Our Permanent Collection,” “African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory,” and “Behind the Mask: Black Power in Comics.”
According to NAAMCC Assistant Director Jerolyn Barbee, “Behind the Mask” is the most popular. It offers a look into the history of black comic book characters. It also coincides with the popularity of the “Black Panther” movie, which features a black superhero.
“What’s in Your Attic?” features pieces from NAAMCC’s permanent collection. It includes a dress worn by a black journalist at the March of Washington. Also on display is an inkwell used by an African Methodist Episcopal bishop, Reverdy C. Ransom. He was influential in the early years of Wilberforce University. The university is located near the museum and is the oldest private and historically black university in America.
“African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory” displays World War II -era promotional images of African Americans participating in the war effort. It also covers African American empowerment in the last 50 years, according to the museum website.
Though Drodge said she’s thrilled that the museum is reopening these exhibits to the public, she and the rest of the staff want to keep themselves and visitors safe. They’ve implemented new health and safety restrictions in accordance with Ohio guidelines.
These include required masks, social distancing stickers on floors, hand sanitizing stations, and separate entrance and exit doors.
Beyond protecting visitors, Drodge said NAAMCC’s goal is to tell the stories of people who shaped America.
“Every artifact, every object, every piece of paper that we have in our collection is part of a human story, part of a human life,” she said. “It’s their voice.”
Visiting hours will be Wednesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for children under five, $3 for children ages 6-17, $6 for adults and $5 for seniors.