After being closed for two years, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston will reopen this month following extensive structural renovations. An open house and grand opening event will take place from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.
Originally constructed in 1867 as the Avery Normal Institute, the first accredited secondary school for African Americans in Charleston, the 153-year-old building, which is located a few blocks west of campus on Bull Street, underwent a major, $2.3 million renovation. In 1985, the alumni of the Avery Normal Institute formed the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture.
In addition to permanent exhibits highlighting African American culture and history, the center houses a variety of historical documents and artifacts available to researchers including approximately 200 manuscripts, more than 4,000 photographs and hundreds of reels of microfilm, VHS tapes, clipping files and digital formats.
To mark its reopening, the Avery is hosting a series of new exhibits beginning on Jan. 15, including:
● Since 1920: Zeta Phi Beta Centennial – The Gamma Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated presents a centennial exhibit filled with the rich history of the sorority in print and paraphernalia. Visitors can see in-depth programming, philanthropy and reach of Zeta Phi Beta during their 100 years.
● The Water Keeps Rising – Hip-hop artist and activist Benny Starr will be creating an interactive exhibit based on data from the Avery’s State of Racial Disparities Report in Charleston County. This exhibit will create an immersive experience for visitors. In the areas of civic engagement, racial disparities, the environment and performance art/music, this exhibit will aim to connect the dots from historical data and archival information up to the present conditions of the Lowcountry that informed the conception of Starr’s A Water Album.
● Resilient – Local artist kolpeace will highlight the power of being resilient with this work that recognizes African Americans who have shown strength through adversity such as local activist the late Muhiyidin D’baha and Cyntoia Brown, who faced life in prison after being convicted of homicide as a juvenile. These pieces are tributes to memorialize the impactful strength of an unsung hero in the community, engaging the soul and spirit.
● The African Origins of Mathematics – Charleston resident and artist Robert “King David” Ross highlights the direct impact Africa has had on modern mathematics in this exhibit. Showcasing the first math instrument, the Ishango bone, visitors can see the influence Africa has had on every aspect of life. The Avery Research Center is located at 125 Bull St. in downtown Charleston.
The center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to the public. Guided tours are available at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.