Charleston County Parks conducting workshop on interpreting African American History and Culture in conjunction with the Smithsonian and other national institutes

On Jan. 15 – 22, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) will conduct a seven-day workshop designed to inspire excellence in the interpretation of African American History and culture and provide professional development. The program, which CCPRC piloted last year, is presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) and The National Association for Interpretation.

Individuals from across the United States will converge on James Island County Park this month for the workshop. Participants who complete the 32-hour course will receive a National Association for Interpretation Certification. The program is conducted by CCPRC Interpretation and Stewardship Manager Mark Madden and Cultural History Interpretation Coordinator Shawn Halifax, who were instrumental in the interpretation of Caw Caw Interpretive Center and McLeod Plantation Historic Site.

Attendees are coming to the Charleston workshop from as far away as Los Angeles, and represent a diverse group of museums and historic sites, ranging from the Harlem Studio Museum in New York to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. A participant from last year’s workshop stated that the course was “essential for anyone working at historic and contemporary African American sites.”

Much of the course will involve developing skills and methods necessary to interpret the difficult history of slavery and its legacy in America. This approach is employed at McLeod Plantation Historic Site. Workshop participants will observe the implementation of these practices at the site followed by a discussion centered on their implementation and usefulness. 

“Interpreting difficult histories like slavery and its legacy is increasing, but requires an approach many institutions do not know how to initiate and struggle to implement,” said workshop co-facilitator Halifax. “This workshop can help organizations desiring to tell a ‘whole’ story begin to navigate their evolving interpretation.”  

For more information on the workshop, visit AAAM’s website,

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