Highly anticipated museum sets opening date

This shot is from the TransAtlantic exhibit, a four-minute, large-scale, immersive media experience taking visitors on a journey from African cultural roots, through tragedy of the Middle Passage, and into local and international diaspora scenes and traditions. Provided photo.

This week, The International African American Museum set Tuesday, June 27 as its big day: the long-awaited museum will finally open to the public.

The opening festivities will feature a number of community events in the days leading up to the launch, to include an opening ceremony a few days prior on June 24.

“We’re excited to open IAAM’s doors and showcase the incredible breadth of African American history,” said Dr. Tonya Matthews, president and CEO of the International African American Museum. “IAAM strives not only to provide a space for all visitors to celebrate and connect to this history, to these stories, and to this art, but also to find meaning within their own stories. The African American journey is far longer than the 20 years it took to build this museum and we are humbly proud to step up and play our part in this story. It is time.”

The museum’s originally scheduled opening of Jan. 21 was delayed as city of Charleston staff and contractors worked to stabilize humidity and temperature levels within the new building. The museum says those issues are resolved, and building operations will be transferred to the IAAM over the next several weeks in preparation for the June opening.

The IAAM, which sits at the site of Gadsden’s Wharf, one of the nation’s most prolific former slave trading ports, includes nine core exhibition galleries and a special exhibition gallery as well as a “floating” gallery that weaves contemporary art throughout the museum. The museum will open with more than 700 artifacts dating from 17th century to contemporary objects, alongside 1,000 image and media collection pieces—all of which help connect the African American journey to its roots and connections to African and African diaspora communities and cultures. The museum also houses the Center for Family History, a world-class genealogy and ancestry resource center, which began hosting genealogy classes and workshops in 2020.

The museum’s opening date coincides with celebrations of Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the day in 1865 when 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they had been freed by the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation nearly two years earlier. The event has been long celebrated by many African American communities and was formally designated as a national holiday in 2021.

Through programming and a unique, authentic, empathetic storytelling, the IAAM activates its mission to honor the untold stories of the African American journey – celebrating the connections and contributions to American and global cultures – in unique and thought-provoking ways. Earlier this year, IAAM kicked off virtual and in-person programming in honor of Black History Month with a series of opportunities for both the local community and future visitors to engage with a variety of educational content. Next month, as final preparations for the official public opening begin, IAAM will host several in-person programs for the community to attend.

The International African American Museum explores cultures and knowledge systems retained and adapted by Africans in the Americas and the diverse journeys and achievements of these individuals and their descendants in South Carolina, the United States, and throughout the African diaspora. IAAM is a champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of American history and is thus one of the nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as it evolves today. IAAM honors the untold stories of the African American journey from Charleston, S.C., at the historically sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf and beyond. For more information, please visit iaamuseum.org or call 843.872.5352.