Original Article Published by Sun Gazette Newspapers

As it continues its search for a permanent home, the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington has partnered with the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization – CPRO – to use some of the latter’s space for exhibitions. A July 8 ceremony represented the formal ribbon-cutting of the exhibit space.

Starting life as a “virtual” museum online, the Black Heritage Museum in 2018 became a bricks-and-mortar museum located in a space above a bank building on Columbia Pike. But the COVID crisis, followed by the looming redevelopment of that parcel, led museum leaders to mull the future.

In stepped CPRO, located about five blocks east of the former museum space.

“It is important to us that the museum remains on Columbia Pike for as long as possible,” CPRO executive director Kim Klingler said. “We have such a rich, diverse history in Arlington, and especially on the Pike. It is important to tell those stores, and the Black Heritage Museum does an amazing job.”

Access to the new space varies. For full details, see the Website at www.arlingtonblackheritage.org.

The Sun Gazette recently posed some questions to Scott Taylor, president of the museum, about the new arrangement and what the future might bring.

How much of the exhibit material from your last space have you been able to move into the new space, and what criteria did you use to select what made the cut?

It was very difficult deciding what would go up right away.

The exhibit on the lunch-counter sit-ins of June 1960 needed to be up, since Arlington as a whole wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of that demonstration. Of course, we were late doing so because of the pandemic, but it gets quite a few visitors and NBC television gave us some nice coverage last month. The Freedman’s Village exhibit is a priority, and the exhibit on the first integrated public school in Arlington.

We have so much more in storage, but decided we will rotate exhibits every three months or so to cover more.

It’s likely this is just a temporary home, pending ultimate redevelopment of the CPRO space. Has planning started on trying to find a new home, or it is time to take a break for the moment and address that later?

Our need of a permanent space haunts me 24/7. Unfortunately I experience a lot of sleepless nights trying to come up with a solution.

We invited many of Arlington’s political figures and honorables to our re-opening in hopes they understand our imperativeness. Arlington needs us as much as we need Arlington, so let’s put our heads together and come up with something. We are displaying history that has been swept under the rug much too long. It’s not just black history, it’s American history, and too much of it is not in our history books.

What is your hope that visitors come away with from touring the exhibits?

We want everyone to walk away with a sense of pride and achievement since knowledge is power and powerful. History itself is powerful. It answers questions, solves mysteries and reveals how connected we all are, whether we like it or not.

The Arlington Historical Society is embarking on an effort to rebuild and redesign the Arlington Historical Museum. Has there been any thought given to collaborating with them in some way?

The Arlington Historical Society is our sister museum. We’ve work on numerous events together and there is a kinship. I’m in constant communication with their president, Cathy Hix, and museum director Mark Benbow. Sadly, the Hume School [home of the Arlington Historical Museum] is much too small to house two museums.

We live in hyperpartisan and hypersensitive times, and trying to tell the story of history must in a way be like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon with no net. How do you approach telling stories of history, and has that changed over the past year or so?

History has to be taught accurately and honestly; otherwise, it’s dangerous. People have to stop being afraid of having a truthful and straight conversation. I believe honesty is the key to destroying dysfunction, racism and ignorance. We all need to take a deep breath and just learn and share.

Because I am a native Arlingtonian, this history is that much more endearing, so I cut no corners, and people seem to take a shine to that.