Afro-American Museum to spend $1.5 million on new exhibit

The center is undergoing a renovation that will keep the museum, 1350 Brush Row Road, closed until after Thanksgiving, according to Charles Wash, museum director.

“Unfortunately, with the mechanical systems upgrades and other renovations yet under way, there’s no way to determine an exact date,” he said.

The museum, which opened in 1988, closed in August 2011 after mold was found in the building.

The funds, requested by the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission on behalf of the Ohio Historical Society, were approved by the Ohio Controlling Board this week. The Controlling Board is comprised of state legislators and officials who handle limited day-to-day adjustments needed in the state budget.

“As we looked at the situation following the problem with the mold we decided that rather than reinstalling the old exhibit, we thought we would seek funds to install a new exhibit,” said George Kane, OHS director of Historic Sites and Facilities. “It made sense to take this opportunity to replace the exhibit.”

Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield) is a member of the Controlling Board and said the $1.5 million was a good use of state money because the museum staff and the Ohio Historical Society plan on doing the exhibit redesign work for the replacement exhibit themselves. Widener claims this will save millions of dollars.

“Even in tough economic times we have tried to put some investment into our historic resources so we can manage them appropriately,” Widener said.

The exhibit that was removed after mold was discovered was called, “From Victory to Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties.” The mold on the pieces in the exhibit has been removed and the pieces are in storage.

Wash said he doesn’t know when the new exhibit will be installed or what it will feature. However, Widener said he was told that the new exhibit will focus on African-American contributions to Ohio’s history. In addition to the new exhibit, the museum is preparing for the installation of another exhibit unrelated to the one being funded by CFC’s $1.5 million.

“With the state budget cuts we’ve experienced over the last few years, we simply do not have the staff to be able to install the art exhibition for the reopening while simultaneously researching, planning and developing a totally separate one with the CFC funds,” Wash said.

In January, Wash told WHIO-TV that he discovered the mold last summer after he noticed a moldy smell around one of the exhibits. Blotchy white mold spores were spreading on a picture frame and other artifacts. Experts from Ohio State University determined the problem was serious enough to close the museum.

The Ohio Historical Society used approximately $73,400 in operational funds for the mold cleanup, which is now complete.

State legislators approved approximately $432,000 in special appropriations for the facilities commission to provide for the museum improvements.

“Now, what we’re working on is museum improvements, which is improving the mechanical systems and also making improvements to the galleries,” Kane said.

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