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AAHC Forum: Facility Extension Connects Past to Present

May 16, 2013

This post is a part of the AAHC Forum. In the coming months we will invite current and past grantees to contribute their project experiences via blog posts on our UpNext Blog and then ask you to respond through the AAHC Virtual Forum. We hope you will add your voice and share your needs and opinions so that AAHC can continue to help African American museums thrive. Please visit the AAHC forum to continue the conversation.

Introduction: The Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History preserves several historic structures along with a new LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environment Design) education and cultural arts building at the Weeksville Heritage Center. It was originally proposed that IMLS funding would allow the organization to hire a LEED-trained facilities manager to operate the new Education and Cultural Arts Building. However, due to delays in construction, the position was modified to accommodate the hiring of an individual during the construction process, allowing for the development of knowledge and design skills and then addressing long-term needs of the institution after completion.

By Anita Romero
Director of Operations & Administration, Weeksville Heritage Center

There is a buzz on Bergen Street. People are wondering what is going on behind the blue construction walls on Bergen and the surrounding streets. Excitement is building as the new extension to the Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) nears completion. The very modern facility is a stark contrast to the quaint, historic houses across the vast meadow. WHC is a cultural organization dedicated to the preservation of Weeksville, a community of free African Americans founded in central Brooklyn in 1838. In my short time here, I have found WHC to be a place where the past comes alive through stories, objects, and a commitment to preservation.

An aerial view of the new site.

The new facility will allow WHC to greatly expand its programming, allowing tens of thousands of visitors to tour the community’s historic houses while enjoying a bevy of concerts, lectures, films, green programs, and exhibitions. The new space will connect the past to the present. A permanent orientation exhibition links the education center to the historic grounds and Hunterfly Road houses. This connection is critical to creating a positive, informative, and expansive visitor experience. The 500-square-foot exhibition will be a multisensory experience including collection objects, archival materials, and interactive media.

The building design has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Standard and has received awards for its innovative sustainable design, which harkens back to Weeksville’s agricultural past. An IMLS Museum Grant for African American History and Culture allowed WHC to hire me as the Director of Operations & Administration. Having joined the team late in the process, I have found the past four months to be a whirlwind, mostly focusing on preparing for a soft opening in June. I am learning a whole new vocabulary as I research the requirements for LEED and the operation of our closed loop geothermal system. We are so proud of the role WHC will play in being a leader in sustainability and green programming.

We are kicking off the 2013 season with a flurry of activity beginning in June with the WHC Gala, several amazing garden party concerts, and the expansion of our famous Farmer’s Market. An open invitation to all of you reading this post: come check out something old and something new at the Weeksville Heritage Center!

Museum Grants for African American History and Culture
Museum Grants for African American History and Culture