By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Photo Courtesy: KCTV5's Justin Schmidt
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
For years an important part of Kansas City's history was wrapped up in uncertainty, away from public view. It took five years of a restoration project, but now the Black Archives of Mid-America have a permanent home and are now open.
"I see a lot of interesting things. I was just telling him (motions over to other person) that Wheatley Hospital was the first hospital I worked at," visitor Eddie L. Robinson said.
Robinson and Earl Morrning walked around the Archives and they couldn't help but realize they were part of Kansas City's history.
"It's very interesting to see all these photos and faces that I've seen over the years," Robinson said.
The archives include thousands of artifacts, manuscripts and photos showing the history of blacks in the Kansas City region. It also includes traditional archival photographs and historic documents but also antique comic books, period baseball apparel and a former slave cabin.
The archive's Executive Director Doretha Williams said Robinson and Morrning's reaction is why the board and volunteers spent the last five years getting ready for Saturday's opening.
"It's a collection of the narrative of African Americans in the Kansas City area. We're excited to present this to the public. The public is waiting for this to reopen," she said.
Horace Peterson opened the original Black Archives in 1974. Peterson's vision came to a close in 2005 after years of insufficient funding, but rebuilding started just two years later.
"The board was reconstituted in 2007. The Parks and Rec and Jay Nixon, who was attorney general at the time, came in as well as council members in the area, to work on salvaging and saving the Black Archives," Williams said.
Thanks to a lot of hard work and a million-dollar donation from the Kauffman Foundation - the former parks administration building in the 18th and Vine district is now home to the Black Archives.
The gallery called 'With Our Eyes No Longer Blind' is the most visual piece, but there's much more inside.
"The history of African Americans cannot be removed from the overall history of Kansas City. We also have our archives open for research," Williams said.
Williams hopes the exhibit will continue to tell the stories of Kansas Citians like Robinson and Morrning.
"Sure I'll be back, absolutely," Morrning said.
There's a whole weeks worth of events to celebrate the grand opening. Click here for more information.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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