Check out these museums offering virtual tours, exhibits
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Each February, Black History Month celebrates the contributions of African Americans to the nation and the world with stories of bravery, ingenuity, sacrifice and the multi-generational determination to overcome monumental challenges.
This year, in the midst of COVID-19, several museums dedicated to conserving Black history — including a number of Missouri museums — have created virtual spaces online to give the public safe and convenient ways to discover that history for themselves.
One of the best places to start is the website of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. Its “AJM @ Home” section, available at https://americanjazzmuseum.org/ajm-at-home, features digital exhibits, playlists, activity sheets, coloring pages and more, all designed to tell the story of America’s original music and the people who helped create it — many of whom were African Americans living in the historic 18th and Vine District where the museum now stands.
One of the standout features of AJM@Home is its virtual tour. With the click of a mouse, visitors can take a virtual walk through the museum, including its numerous displays and interactive exhibits, as well as its Blue Room Jazz Club and Gem Theater.
The tour even takes visitors to the entrance of the adjoining Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which is located in the same complex but operates as its own entity.
The baseball museum, which chronicles the 28-year period from the creation of the Negro Leagues to the year it folded after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, has its own online display available at https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/negro-leagues-baseball-museum. Once there, visitors can browse through historic photos and click two online exhibits, one showcasing the history of the museum itself, and a second exhibit, “Stories from The Negro Leagues,” which features a short film and videos from the players and others who lived and played during baseball’s segregated era.
Here are some other Missouri museums with online resources to check out:
— The Black Archives of Mid-America, which is also located in the 18th and Vine District, has its own online exhibits at https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-black-archives-of-mid-america. Dedicated to preserving Black history of the central area of the U.S., the site features a number of historic photos, an exhibit on the history of the 18th and Vine neighborhood, along with “Alvin Ailey,” an exhibit celebrating the life of the pioneering African-American choreographer who helped popularize modern dance over a 36-year career that ended with his death from AIDS in 1989.
— The National Blues Museum in St. Louis has several online resources on its website, https://nationalbluesmuseum.org. Clicking on the site’s “Media” tab will reveal video collections, including oral histories and full-length concerts visitors can enjoy. A click on the “News” tab reveals playlists and a variety of articles from Black artists recalling the history, travel and food available on the road during the Jim Crow era and after.
— The Black Archives Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri, features a history of the museum and videos on its website at https://www.stjosephmuseum.org/black-archives-museum.
The video “In Their Own Words: An Oral History of African Americans in St. Joseph” tells the story of residents who lived through the city’s desegregation efforts. A second video, “The Battle of Island Mound,” tells the story of Black Soldiers during the Civil War who fought and won a skirmish with Confederate forces near Butler, Missouri.
Other online resources
Beyond Missouri, a number of museums offer online resources celebrating Black history, including:
— The King Center website at https://bit.ly/3jl5ML1 contains collections of historic photos and documents recounting life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. that defined much of the Civil Rights Era.
— The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site has online exhibits about Black fighter pilots during World War II. Check it out at https://bit.ly/39UD7tc.
— The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., chronicles the Black experience in America, from the slave trade in the 1600s to the present day, with multiple exhibits and nearly 900 photos available at https://bit.ly/3pXQBtu.