Trying To Defy The House Museum Stereotype: Weeksville Heritage Center

by Alyssa Nordhauser

Our friends over at Build A Better Burb have a great post by Liz McEnaney entitled Not Another House Museum! about, well, house museums that defy the norm (the norm being stuffy and boring). They cite the Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC), a local house museum in Brooklyn, as a good example.

Image: weeksvillehc.tumblr.com

Image: weeksvillehc.tumblr.com

What is Weeksville? It was a free African American settlement in Brooklyn (or, as it was spelled then Breuckelen) in the mid 1800’s. The structures here were forgotten about and essentially lost until someone working on a map of the area rediscovered them in the 1960’s. The WHC opened to the public in 2005 and has since worked to make its house museum relevant to the community in its neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesent.

As McEnaney points out the director of WHC, Pamela Green, feels that “in order for an historic site to be relevant, it has to have a role in the community.” So what can you find at Weeksville that might make you want to engage with the site? Check out their Events page and you’ll find a variety of things including a farmer’s market, an organic garden, a green education program and musical programs like Eco Soul, which is an annual outdoor celebration of jazz held in May. And their new education and cultural arts building is set to open this spring and I can’t wait to check it out.

So what can we at the LatimerNOW project glean from this? A focus on education comes to mind. As Latimer was a well known inventor and engineer, it makes sense to utilize the space for engineering, science and robotics programs aimed at local youth.

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(Full disclosure – I’ve done some freelance work for the Build A Better Burb/The Long Island Foundation. I also attended Pratt Institute, which was involved with the creation of the Weeksville Heritage Center.)

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