South Jersey Museum Celebrates African-American Heritage Year Round

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February is Black History Month but one local museum celebrates the culture every month.

The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey has been around for 16 years in Newtonville and four years at the Noyes Art Garage in Atlantic City.

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“Here in Atlantic City we have something different," said Ralph E. Hunter Sr., president and founder of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey. "We’re just opening a brand new exhibit here, [which] opens for Black History Month.”

They have an opportunity to see, feel, smell and touch what African American history is in American history.

That exhibit is the first thing you see when you enter the Atlantic City museum and it’s called, “Back from Mother Africa.”

"That exhibit [consists] of some very important carvings, most recently donated to the museum by Mr. [Joseph P.] Young who is an architect out of Philadelphia," said Hunter. "He donated 10 pieces of wonderful sculpture. It’s modern, contemporary art and each piece weighs about 1,000 pounds.”

Along with carvings, the artist spotlights photographs he’s taken during trips to Africa, including West Africa.

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The back half of the museum in Atlantic City consists of pieces relating specifically to African-American history in the city itself.

“They have an opportunity to see, feel, smell and touch what African-American history is in American history," said Hunter. "So, it’s very important to bring your teachers, your churches, your organizations here and we can share the story of the great contributions of African Americans in a very, very positive way.” 

Since founding the museum back in 2002, the collection and exhibits have begun to accumulate thanks to donations.

“We started off with about 3,000 [and] now our archives are high in the 11,000[s]," said Hunter. "So, we have many, many different exhibits," said Hunter. "We’re coming out with at least three or four a year.” 

And viewing all those exhibits at both locations won’t cost you a dime.

“We want to make it free simply because it gives people the opportunity to come and look around, and not really be committed to saying: 'I don’t have enough money to get into the property,'” said Hunter.

Hunter and his mighty group of volunteers are making learning more about African-American history during this month and the rest of the year available to everyone. 

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