Visitors begin their journey through Engage History Hall in Africa, and particularly West Africa, the center of Diaspora that affected millions of African people from the late 1400s until
Three large annotated murals explore the stories about the geography, natural history, cultures, and people of the African continent.
The murals are eye catching. The first one is a traditional African village where people are going about their daily lives. Small labels explain and describe the houses, tools, and activities we see. In the second mural we see plants and animals from all over the African continent. Visitors learn about where the animals live and which ones are threatened by development, wars, poaching, and climate change. Visitors can read or listen to African folk stories about the animals on our iPad®. The third mural is a map of West Africa. Here visitors learn about the important crops that originated in Africa and that we now eat here in South Carolina and throughout the United States.
On the back wall of the space is a six-monitor video presentation. Visitors will see images of people shackled together, read the words of slave traders and hear the captives' stories of despair. As the presentation ends, they pass through a doorway— The Door of No Return.
Middle Passage Exhibit
In The Middle Passage visitors are in the dark hold of a ship and will hear the sounds of the ocean, people crying and moaning, someone is telling us what it is like to be onboard this ship for months. Visitors gain additional insight into the slave trade by listening to the narratives of Olaudah Equiano and other Africans' firsthand account of kidnapping and enslavement.
Visitors exit the ships hold, to a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina. An almost life size image of a man, woman, and child waiting to be sold stands in front of us.
Visitors learn how enslaved Africans found themselves in the Aiken area and how they lived and worked here. They also will hear people read accounts of slavery as it was remembered by the last generation of people born into slavery and recorded by Works Progress Administration staff in the 1920s and 1930s.
Visitors experience the Power of Faith exhibit through an information panel that uses images and text to tell stories about how faith has sustained and supported the African American community. The panel showcases some of the earliest churches in Aiken and their contribution to the formation of independent black churches across the United States.
Visitors experience the Power of Education exhibit through a series of information panels that use images and text to tell stories about the value of education and the power it has to create opportunities, lift people up, and inspire a free and open society. Several panels will showcase some of the earliest schools in Aiken and the people who were involved in their establishment. To help emphasize that learning never ends, an interactive white board that can be used to teach school groups or simply play videos is installed on the center wall of the exhibit space.
Building a New Life is about genealogy, homecomings and family reunions. Visitors will be able to use the interactive kiosk to learn how to start their own genealogy project. The exhibit also showcases local African American businesses and shows how the entrepreneurial spirit thrives in Aiken. Kids can use the interactive kiosk to learn how they can turn their interests and hobbies into careers.
Visitors will experience the Express Yourself exhibit through a multi-faceted collage of images, facts, brief narratives, objects, and interactive displays that showcase the ground breakers, the favorites, and the phenomena who were and still are ingrained in the musical, artistic, and literary history of the United States. The collage showcases some of the artists whose work truly changed American culture and sets their work into a larger social context.
The Our Unbound Spirit exhibit includes a timeline that integrates important world, national, state and local events. Illustrations, photographs, and words create a linear chronology of the history of the United States, South Carolina, Aiken County and the African American experience. A multi-screen video presentation showcases particularly important events and people that shaped the social and political course of America.
Finally, the visitors' trip through the Center ends at the Around the Kitchen Table exhibit. The tabletop has been made into a photographic mural that shows place settings that reflect many themes, time frames, images, events, etc. that the visitors encountered during their journey through the Center. The visitors will have an opportunity to reflect on them and share their ideas and impressions.