I have to be honest. Before we opened the Seminole Negro Indian Museum, we didn’t know what to expect. We constantly wondered and worried if anyone would actually visit once we opened our doors. I am sure that many of you know that starting something new can feel like wading out into uncharted waters. It can be extremely exhilarating and completely nerve-wracking all at the same time.
We spent many, many months planning the layout of the museum, preparing each section, researching our history to make sure our information was accurate, studying other museums, and nitpicking and agonizing over the placement of each and every picture on display. Each completed objective meant we were one step closer to achieving our goal of opening a museum that would tell the story of the Black Seminoles.
When we had our grand opening on April 25, 2015, we were overwhelmed by the turnout. We were humbled by the support we received from all of those who attended, and since our opening, we’ve had several visitors who have returned and brought friends and family with them. The museum has become a unique meeting place, where we are able to discuss and explore several thought-provoking topics. We’ve been able to meet with college students, historians, and writers, and give them tours to help them better understand the Black Seminoles as a people.
We’ve also been very lucky, in that, we’ve had the support of all of the other local museums. It feels like we’ve become a family, and we are indebted to the expertise and kindness and friendship that we’ve been shown. The Fort Clark Historical Society and Museum (Old Guardhouse Museum) donated display cases and artifacts. Any time we’ve had a question, they’ve helped by answering it or pointing us in the right direction. The Filippone Museum, which is run by the Kinney County Historical Commission, opened its doors not long after we opened ours, and we’ve enjoyed engaging in an open dialogue about museums and history and so much more.
In the time that the museum has been opened, I’ve asked myself several times, Why are museums important? I think I am finally able to answer that question with some confidence.
I’ve learned that museums allow us to celebrate ourselves. They allow us to explore our history. They allow us to illuminate what we find beautiful, meaningful, and important. Museums tell visitors, “This is what we want you to know about us.” Museums invite exploration and curiosity. They foster imagination and hope.
Now that we are in the holiday season, we invite and encourage you to go out and explore your surroundings. We are so fortunate to live in this community that is so full of history and people who are passionate about preserving and promoting it. If you haven’t already, I think you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take some time one Saturday to visit the museums that are working to preserve the history of this beautiful place that we all call home.
Note: This blog was published as an article in the 12/01/16 edition of the Kinney County Post.