African American Museum reopens after year-long closure

Ivan Henderson remembers the very day that the doors of The African American Museum in Philadelphia closed. 14 months later, the museum prepares for its reopening.

Video Transcript

- It is the first of its kind anywhere in the country, and today, they're reopening their doors. Philadelphia's African-American Museum has been shut down for the last year, closed by the pandemic. And as they finally open back up, it's to a world in the midst of a racial reckoning. Action News race and culture reporter, Tarhonda Thomas, live outside that museum this afternoon. Tarhonda, you're going to give us the first look inside.

TARHONDA THOMAS: I will, you know, for the first time in more than a year this museum, the African-American Museum in Philadelphia, has reopened. So we wanted to give you a tour of what's back and what's new. Because, while they had virtual programming, they say nothing beats the feeling of simply walking through these doors.

So I'm not even 10 steps in the door, and I'm already seeing something new. Ivan Henderson is the VP of programming here. What is this here?

- So what you have here is our self-service kiosk. One of the first ways that we've developed to try to protect our visitors as they try to come back to the museum. You're able to scan these barcodes, skip the line, purchase your ticket. Everyone will fall into a timed ticket slot, so we've shortened our hours in a sense. We've also put a 70, 75 minute limit on your visit time. One of the things that you'll encounter when you come in during your timed ticket slot, so instead of you pushing buttons to initiate it or stop it, instead, it'll just loop timed with your visit.

- How pleased are you to be reopening and sharing these stories?

IVAN HENDERSON: I am as pleased as I can be. We've been closed for 14 months, so I've got about 14 months worth of anticipation built up.

- 14 months?

- Yes, yes, we closed on March 13. In a way, we weren't able to do that thing that we pride ourselves on doing so well.

- Here's my reminder to stay six feet apart. You encourage that, right?

- Yes, one of the new changes here, and I'm really proud of our staff for developing this is corresponding to each one of those prompts is a foot control. We're in the 21st century, and this pushes us a little bit further into it. We have to find other ways to pursue our mission. Our mission didn't change. But with all of the ideas and topics around black art, history, and culture, and black lives in the public space, right now, we are anxious to be a part of that conversation.

- Boy, what a nice tour, right? Now, of course, masks are required, if you want to come into the building, and let me show you something on the door here. There's a QR code, because they encourage all the guests to do a health screening before they enter. Which, by the way, you also want to get those tickets in advance, because they can only allow 60 people inside the building.