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African American museum to reopen at new location in Decatur

June 26, 2015

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — The African-American Cultural and Genealogical Society of Illinois Museum is reopening this weekend at its new location in Decatur.

In fall 2013, the museum lost its home of 20 years on Decatur’s Main Street and had to put its collection in storage until last spring, when the Rev. Sally Hamon of Central United Methodist Church offered the building that formerly housed Blessingdale’s. Not the museum will open Saturday in the new space, where it will feature exhibits on topics like the Underground Railroad and influential African Americans in history.

Each exhibit carries its own story in an effort to education visitors, especially children, Evelyn Hood, founder and CEO of the African-American Cultural and Genealogical Society of Illinois, told the (Decatur) Herald & Review (http://bit.ly/1NfferG ).

“It’s a chance to experience their culture and learn where they’ve come from,” she said. “I’m hoping young people can see that history and see those who’ve become doctors and scientists. They can learn to not let go of their dreams and persevere.”

Many of the exhibits were created by students taking classes with Rich Hansen, who teaches the African-American Experience class at Mount Zion High School. Every year, Hansen has his students work on projects that can fulfill the museum’s needs.

The students created the Underground Railroad exhibit as part of a yearlong project featuring wanted posters of runaway slaves and a hidden compartment in the wall.

“We wanted to not only educate the museum-goer on what it was like for fugitive slaves, but to also experience that sense of going underground,” Hansen said.

His ideas for future projects include exhibits on Jim Crow laws and historic royalty in Egypt or other African countries.

A program, ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours are planned Saturday to commemorate the museum’s reopening.

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Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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