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Pros speak on slave museum page 3
African-American museum professionals weigh in on ingredients for a good start-up

Date published: 8/30/2004



Steven Newsome, director emeritus of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, attended the Howard symposium. He said openness is important for the slavery museum's future.

"In order for this thing to succeed, there's going to have to be transparency and time for consensus-building," said Newsome, who is now an adviser for the upcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture.

AAAM Executive Director William Billingsley said he plans to contact Foster next month and offer her the opportunity to give a presentation on the slavery museum at next year's conference.

Foster has said the U.S. National Slavery Museum will open in 2007. Her assistant said construction should begin before year's end.

The AAAM is one of two major organizations museum professionals involved in African-American history should join, conference participants said.

Carolyn Gautier Adams, who met Foster while working in Richmond for 28 years, said the opportunity to network with other professionals and learn from their successes and failures is a tremendous help.

"I think it's a great resource," said Adams, an AAAM board member and former community-affairs director for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "You'll find consultants here and people with experience in start-up planning."

She said the American Association of Museums is also helpful, but AAAM is "the key group" for this specialty.

"This is where you can say, 'I'm having problems. I need to know how to do this,'" Adams said.

A step-by-step process

North Carolina architect Philip Freelon talked at the conference about his work on the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore--both of which are scheduled to open next year.

In outlining the steps he takes in developing museums, Freelon was one of several people who said involving the local community is one of the starting points.

The first step, he said, is three-fold--establishing the museum within the museum community, creating a board or steering committee, and conducting a market and financial analysis.

With those things done, Freelon begins the six- to 12-month "pre-design" phase. During that time, the museum involves stakeholders, establishes its vision and mission, discusses programming, does a site analysis, works on concept development and conducts a feasibility analysis.

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