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[AR] Jackson County AfriAm History

New Jacksonport exhibit honors Jackson County's proud African American history

By Ken Duvall / Independent Asst. Editor

TRAVIS EDDELMAN, Collection Curator for the African American History Exhibit which opened Sunday at Jacksonport State Park, stands beside an exhibit on slavery that is currently on display at the courthouse museum. -- Independent photo by Ken Duvall

The new exhibit at Jacksonport's State Park saw more than 40 people take advantage of the warm weather to see a piece of our county's history.

The African-American History Exhibit held its grand opening Sunday afternoon and received a warm reception from the community.

Collection Curator Travis Eddelman oversaw the project and has high hopes for its definition of African-American history.

"We're really proud of it and we've worked hard on it, all the staff here. We hope that it's accepted well by the community and that it does the African-American community justice through their history," Eddelman said Friday before the opening.

"We started off with the early 1840's, the slavery era, and we worked our way around all the way to the 1950's, that is where we wrapped it up, just before the Civil Rights Act of the 60's," he said.

Eddelman was quick to praise the community for its efforts in lending items to the collection, although sometimes reluctantly.

"We had people from the community bring in photos and we scanned them and gave them back. A lot of the photos we have are scanned images of family heirlooms. That was the biggest thing was convincing people that their stuff would be well taken care of. We had a lot of different people who were real helpful, but I think there was a lot of people worried about something happening to their family heirlooms," Eddelman noted.

However, people viewing the exhibit will only see about a fourth of what was collected.

"That's one of the big things in here is space, we don't have a lot of space. We have a lot of stuff that the curator before me had wanted to put in here and when we layed it out and I got in here and began to set stuff in space, there was just so much of it that would not fit in here. And I hated it to have to cut some things. I went through each item and looked at it and tried to figure out how it affects Jackson County," he said.

"There are tons more just like that that we could have looked at in here. We just highlighted and addressed the main points, if I had another four rooms I probably could have filled them up."

The project, which is scheduled to run through Dec. 31, is not without controversy.

"I guess the main focal point of the exhibit is the slavery section of it. We have some really neat artifacts there, the leg shackles, the hand shackles, the slavery token, postcards, the sales receipt or bill of sale from the slave trade, the ledger, the games," he said.

Eddelman adds, "We have our controversial lynching photo there. Its caused a lot of blood, sweat and tears trying to decide whether to run it or not. We thought that was something very important that had happened and we needed to address it. Really, the slave thing is the thing that most people think of when they think of African-American history, and I think that is one of the things that will draw people here."

Eddelman put the exhibit together his way and the effect shows.

For the complete story, please see the Wednesday, April 20, 2005 edition of the Newport Independent. (registration required)

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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