The grand opening celebration for the new Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia is set for Thursday, April 26 on the campus of Ferris State University.
The grand opening begins with a reception and ceremony at 10 and 11 a.m., respectively, in the Williams Auditorium lobby before the scene shifts to the Rankin Student Center. A “Conversation with David Pilgrim” is set for 1 p.m. in the Art Gallery. Pilgrim, the university’s vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and the museum’s founder and curator, will be followed at 2 p.m. by a “Conversation with Jon McDonald,” a professor at Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design, who painted the “Cloud of Witnesses” mural in the new museum. Festivities conclude with “Act of Racism,” a performance presented by a group from Grand Valley State University, beginning at 4 p.m. in the Rankin Student Center Centennial Dining Room.
Admission is free for all events, and museum tours will be conducted from 1 to 5 p.m. as the dream of the museum is now a reality.
“I am excited beyond words. … I have always seen the museum as primarily an academic resource for our faculty, our staff and our students and that is what it is for a lot of us,” Pilgrim said. “For me, personally, this grand opening also is the culmination of many years of work. I am very grateful and appreciative to all of the people who made the grand opening of the new Jim Crow Museum a reality.”
President David Eisler saluted the official grand opening of the new $1.3 million, 3,300-square-foot Jim Crow Museum. Eisler noted that the strong educational value of the new facility and the message it sends about the university’s commitment to diversity, a core value.
“The Jim Crow Museum tells the powerful story of oppression in our country. It is an emotional experience that encourages dialogue and discussion. Through this we can all learn tolerance, understanding and acceptance of differences,” Eisler said. “We are fortunate to have at Ferris State University, a museum that conveys our deep commitment to diversity and understanding. I am very grateful to David Pilgrim for creating this compelling collection, sharing this with our university and presenting it so that all can see and experience it.”
Pilgrim noted that the expanded facility will allow the museum to display more of its 9,000-piece collection of artifacts in a way that strengthens educational outcomes.
“Our new facility allows us to place items in their proper context. As we started to plan for the new Jim Crow Museum, we looked at the stories that we wanted to tell,” Pilgrim said. “The additional space that we now have allows us to tell a much deeper and layered story about Jim Crow … Jim Crow the character and Jim Crow segregation.”
The new museum features a lynching tree, many of the major caricatures of the Jim Crow era, objects that symbolize African American achievement and the Civil Rights Movement, didactic panels for storytelling and a space for dialogue.
The Jim Crow Museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. daily.