From Whence We Came: Permanent Black history exhibit debuts at Carnegie Center this weekend

As work on the Carnegie Reimagined project updated building infrastructure at the Port Huron Museum’s Carnegie Center, storage space was cleared out and potential new exhibit space was created.

But what to do with it?

Andrew Kercher, community engagement manager at Port Huron Museums, says that while various ideas were explored, the museum team decided on permanent exhibits featuring groups that have been previously marginalized. While work on the permanent Indigenous peoples exhibit is currently underway, the staff and its contributors are excited to debut From Whence We Came: Black History in the Blue Water Area, the museum’s first permanent Black history exhibit.

The official opening date of the exhibit is Saturday, Feb. 13. The COVID-19 pandemic limits the museum’s ability to have a formal reception for the exhibit, so Saturday’s debut is considered a soft opening until a grand opening can be safely scheduled. That means that the exhibit will be available to visit beginning this Saturday, albeit with a more muted, but no less important, celebration of local history.

“We’re especially aware of it in February, because it’s Black History Month, but Black history is American history. It’s local history. It’s not a separate thing,” Kercher says.

“It deserves to be acknowledged year-round.”

One of the centerpieces of From Whence We Came is the James Sr. & Marguerite Stanley Legacy Wall, which honors the living legacies of the Port Huron community, including Marguerite Stanley, Ila Shoulders, KC Norman, and more.

“Haran Stanley reached out to us about wanting to honor her grandma (Marguerite Stanley) and we thought, let’s make it a centerpiece of the whole exhibit,” Kercher says.

[Read Harold Powell’s profile of Haran Stanley and more about her work with From Whence We Came.]

The museum compiled oral histories from the Black community, created informative videos and graphics, and curated artifacts and photographs. The exhibit is a living one, says Kercher, and will be constantly updated and evolve through the years.

The James Sr. & Marguerite Stanley Legacy Wall.

From Whence We Came benefits from the museum’s community engagement efforts. With Haran’s help, the museum created a local committee featuring members of the Black community to guide and curate the exhibit.

“We wanted to facilitate this exhibit. We want to tell this story but it’s not necessarily our story to tell, so we needed the community’s help,” Kercher says.

The Carnegie Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From Whence We Came: Black History in the Blue Water Area is available during normal museum hours.

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