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Symposium Held On Museum Interpretation Of Slavery

Independence National Historical Park

National Park News

Over 100 scholars, students and museum professionals came together on February 25th to attend a symposium entitled “American Slavery: Bringing Wider Perspectives to Museum Interpretation.”

Sponsored jointly by Independence National Historical Park, the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Friends of Independence, the symposium brought together an extraordinary group of talented artists, noted historians, teachers and successful managers of historic sites to generate conversation and new ideas about how slavery has been -- and could be -- interpreted at museums.

Dr. Emma Lapsansky, professor emerita from Haverford College, launched the first morning panel, a vigorous discussion about museums and ways in which museum professionals can explore and share new discoveries and new perspectives in history. The panelists were Mary V. Thompson, research historian for Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens; Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New York Historical Society; and Ivan Henderson, curator of education and public programming for the African American Museum in Philadelphia.  

In the morning’s second panel, David Young, executive director of “Cliveden,” a site owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, moderated a compelling discussion about presenting stories and engaging communities. Panelists for this lively debate were Louis Massiah, executive director of Scribe Video; Lorene Cary, author and founder and director of Art Sanctuary; Christy Coleman, president of The Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar; and Gay Vietzke, deputy regional director for park operations for Northeast Region and the former superintendent of Hampton NHS.

After an opportunity for participants to visit The President’s House, lunch was enjoyed by all at Independence Visitor Center. Discussion was further encouraged by the keynote address given by Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Symposium participants provided positive feedback and the organizers are already planning a follow-up gathering to continue the discussions next year.


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