Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History opens amid renovations

The Lucy Craft Laney Black History Museum has been closed for nine months and residents have taken notice.

“We were getting calls every day,” museum director Linda Johnson said. “‘When are you all going to reopen? Are you all going to reopen?’ It just broke my heart.”

But after several months and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other complications, the museum is now open to the public — at least temporarily during Masters Week April 5-9 — and thanks to a donation from Bank of America, admission is free for the first four weeks of reopening.

The Pilgrim Hall at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History in Augusta.  The museum reopened this week after being closed for nine months for renovations.

Since 1991, the museum has been a hit with families, history buffs, and other guests from across the country because it offers, as Johnson said, “authentic history about African Americans in the river region. “. Precious relics of the region’s rulers are displayed on two floors, and there is a constant flow of rotations, exhibits and exhibitors.

The museum itself was once home to Lucy Craft Laney, who opened Augusta’s first school for black children in 1883 and is among several famous African-Americans celebrated in the exhibits.

The Lucy Craft Laney Museum is located at 1116 Phillips Street in Augusta, Georgia.

But standing over 100 years had taken its toll on the museum, which is why it had to be closed for renovations, much of which centered on the basic structure of the building.

“Because there was damage to the roof, of course we had damage to the ceiling, and then when it rained heavily, it was raining so hard that we had to put buckets to catch the rain that was coming through the ceiling slab. “, Johnson said.

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These fears have disappeared now that there is a new roof and ceilings, in addition to the walls which have been repainted, waterproofed, guaranteeing their integrity. They also replaced the windows with special museum windows that let in less heat, better preserving the antiquities inside. Johnson said they worked closely with their contractors to ensure they fixed what needed help without ruining the building’s historic features and character.

The entrance to the Lucy Craft Laney Museum has an unusable (out of frame) elevator that museum director Linda Johnson called

Inside, there have been similar updates, including tech upgrades like museum-quality LED lighting, a new floodlight, and an advanced temperature-measuring station to screen guests for illness at home. amid recent COVID-19 protocols.

One of the biggest upgrades to come, though it won’t be ready for a few weeks, is an elevator. The museum has always had one, but it has been out of use for over 15 years. Over the past year, getting a working elevator has been a top priority for the administration, as it will allow better accessibility for those who have difficulty using stairs.

After the special Masters Week hours, the museum will be closed again until an undetermined date in May to allow work on the elevator to be completed. The new elevator became a reality with financial assistance from Walton Options and the Walton Family Foundation. Walton Options executive director Tiffany Clifford said via email: ‘This museum is in our neighborhood and we have consumers who have enjoyed visiting it for its rich history’ and ‘we want to see people with disabilities have the same opportunities in the community than those who don’t”. .”

One of the top-floor rooms at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History celebrates African-American artists from the Augusta area, including music legend James Brown, Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne and star of the Jazz Wycliffe Gordon.

These are just a few of the renovations. Johnson said, looking at the museum, “it looks like a new building” and “it should last over 50 years”.

She went on to say that now that they have solidified their museum, they are eager to expand and hope to do so by purchasing some of the surrounding properties to convert into other buildings or parks that would boost the educational programming of the foundation.

The museum is located at 1116 Phillips St. in Augusta. This week, and as soon as the museum reopens, guided tours will take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Self-guided visits will take place on Wednesdays and Fridays at the same times as for walk-in guests. After the free admission period ends, admission is $7 or $5 for ages 62 and older, military and family with ID and $3 for ages 4-17. For more information, visit lucycraftlaneymuseum.com.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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