African American Museum training to restore damaged artifacts

After the African American Museum was set to re-open after the devastating December 2021 tornadoes, parts of the museum were set ablaze.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:06 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - The Bowling Green African American Museum was created in 2006 to preserve black culture and honor the many achievements and contributions of people of color in Bowling Green and South Central Kentucky.

“I have been involved with the museum for all of its life,” said Wathetta Buford, the Projects Manager of the African American Museum. “I was one of the ones that started it and came up with the idea of an African American museum.”

Buford has been with the African American Museum through it all, but nothing more difficult than a natural disaster and a fire.

After the African American Museum was set to re-open after the devastating December 2021 tornadoes, parts of the museum were set ablaze shortly after.

“Someone had called me and said, ‘Do you know your museum is on fire?’” Buford said.

“I said, ‘On fire?’ I was ready to go back to work from the tornado damage. It took me seven to eight months before I could get into a building temporarily.”

Now that the outside of the building has recovered, she said it is now time to restore what was inside the building.

Officials from many different museums in Bowling Green and the Rotary Club of Bowling Green banded together to provide a training session on how to properly restore the damaged artifacts in the African American Museum.

Buford said seeing everyone come together for a common cause is more than just about restoring items in a museum.

“I am just excited because we have gained so many partners to work on this. All of the museums in Bowling Green, we work together,” said Buford.

“It is like family. We have become really close, partners as I said. Anything they need, I will help. Anything I need, they will help. It has been a good resource.”

Some museums involved in the training included officials from the Downing Museum, the National Corvette Museum, and the Kentucky Museum. There were also members of the African American Museum’s Board of Directors in attendance.

The Rotary Club of Bowling Green provided the museum with a grant to help in restoration efforts and training.

The training session provided by museum officials taught those in attendance how to remove smoke and water from items in the museum.

After all of the devastation the African American Museum has seen over the years, Buford said that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

”It has been a long time coming, but we are excited. People are excited because they are wanting to be able to come to the museum. We want to get at least part of it done so that they can start making tours.”

Today’s training was just the first of a few training sessions. Buford said that once all of the sessions are complete, the restoration and cleaning process will begin.

For more information, you can visit the African American Museum’s website.