African American Cultural & Historical Museum
The African American Cultural & Historical Museum (AACHM) has a mission “to research, collect, preserve and exhibit cultural and historical materials about the life and work of African Americans in Washtenaw County.” The AACHM offices are currently housed in an 1830s farmhouse known as the David R. Byrd Center, and a new museum facility is being constructed. In the meantime, this “museum without walls” focuses its efforts on educational programming through traveling exhibits, guided tours, festival booths, cultural events, and collaboration with other institutions.
Backstory and Context
Since its founding, AACHM has worked with other institutions and events in the area to create temporary traveling exhibits and to provide educational opportunities on African American history. While the new museum building is being renovated, volunteers are actively seeking out donations of artifacts and archives to build the museum’s collection. One of the museum’s most prized artifacts is a gourd doll made by a descendant of Asher and Catherine Aray, African American pioneers who moved to the area in 1827 and were conductors on the Underground Railroad.3 One of the museum’s main programs is “Journey to Freedom,” a guided bus tour of Underground Railroad stops in Ann Arbor. Other tours and presentations cover the role of African Americans in the Civil War, Emancipation Day, and historic Ypsilanti.4 The museum’s Living Oral History Project records interviews with elderly Washtenaw County residents to document the lives of African Americans during the 20th century. The project is the result of a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, in collaboration with the Ann Arbor District Library, and will serve as the base of an exhibit at the new museum building.5 AACHM also hosts a Focus on the Arts Program covering African American arts, literature, and music. An annual Evening of Dinner and Jazz fundraiser is put on every December.4