“Topping Out” ceremony marks major milestone for International African American Museum

July 14, 2020

The construction of the International African American Museum is progressing as planned, despite the global presence of COVID-19. This marks an important milestone in the museum’s journey, as major donors, board members, and elected officials attended the “topping out” ceremony, marking the placement of the structure’s final steel beam.

“Every steel beam represents the hopes and dreams of citizens committed to building an institution that will impact the world,” said Joe Riley, former mayor of Charleston and lifetime member of the museum’s board of directors. “At this extraordinary moment when people across the country are confronting racial injustice in remarkable ways, including protest marches with unprecedented diversity, the need for this museum is undeniable.”

The International African American Museum will explore cultures and knowledge systems retained and adapted by Africans in the Americas, and the diverse journeys and achievements of these individuals and their descendants in South Carolina, the United States, and throughout the African diaspora. The African Ancestors Memorial Garden will be a place to reflect, experience botanical gardens, artistic installations, an infinity fountain on the edge of the original wharf, and a soundscape that explores diverse African languages, performances, and programs.

“The International African American Museum is about a journey that began centuries ago in Africa”, said Wilbur Johnson, Chair of the museum’s Board. “Today, we celebrate meeting a major milestone in the journey that began twenty years ago to create this museum.”

Leaders from the Turner-Brownstone construction teams, including Mark Dent, VP and General Manager of Turner Construction Company, and Dale Collier, President and CEO of Brownstone Construction Group, were in attendance to highlight the significance of this event. Their remarks were followed by a countdown to the steel beam’s placement by Mayor John Tecklenburg, who serves as a member of the museum’s board.

“Thanks to supporters from across the globe, we raised the money for the construction of the museum and garden,” said Dr. Elijah Heyward, Chief Operating Officer of the museum.

“We now turn our attention to raising the funds to fill out our leadership team with the best people in their respective fields, develop our education curriculum and programs, hire and train the team who will operate the museum, and build and execute a marketing program that will result in the sale of 100,000 tickets before the doors open. We invite everyone to be a part of this journey.”

The International African American Museum will also include the Center for Family History, a groundbreaking resource for the study and advancement of African American genealogy, with connections to Africa and the African diaspora.

The museum is projected to open in early 2022.

About the International African American Museum

The museum strives to foster empathy and understanding, empowering visitors with the knowledge of the past. The journey will challenge, illuminate, inspire and ultimately, will move people to action. The museum’s exhibitions will share untold stories using classic techniques as well as new approaches driven by innovation, technology and digital interactivity. Themes will include connections across the African diaspora, the spread of African American culture and influence, and the movements for justice and equality. The Center for Family History will enable visitors to trace their genealogy, while changing exhibitions and special events will keep the museum energized. Educational programs will provide life-long learning opportunities for visitors both young and old.

The museum will open early 2022. For more information, please visit our website at iaamuseum.org or connect with us on social media @iaamuseum on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.