Pre-booked ticket sales dominate IAAM during first month open

During its first month open, hundreds of visitors from across the country passed through the doors of the International African American History Museum each day
Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 5:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2023 at 8:56 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - During its first month open, hundreds of visitors from across the country passed through the doors of the International African American History Museum.

Museum officials say they continue to sell out by the end of most days and pre-bookings often fill up days in advance.

Chief Learning and Engagement Officer Malika Pryor says the board and staff are thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response.

“Whether they’re coming as an individual, or they’re coming as a family and creating a multi-generational experience for themselves, are visiting the museum and then of course, there are additional folks that are making their way onto the lower grounds because our first level or garden level is a public park and so sometimes there are five visitors to Charleston that are not necessarily intentional visitors to the museum, who are also in conversation with the installation to the gardens, which is pretty fantastic as well,” Pryor says.

The museum draws people from across the country. Eleanor Pinckney and Loretta Patton-Greenidge are visiting From New York. They came to the Lowcountry for the first time to visit their Gullah Geechee relatives and time their trip to make it to the museum.

“My family meets officially every two years we travel to a different city. And the members come together and then we learn about the history of our city and we learn about the history of black people in that city,” Pinckney says.

They say members of their family walked through at different paces and times and they look forward to meeting up for dinner and talking about the experience.

“This is my first time in this particular city but I was really surprised to learn that the Gullah culture was so strong here. And it was so very related to the goals of the city,” Patton-Greenidge says.

Pyror says the number one comment people share when they leave the exhibits, is that there was so much to take in, most plan to come back when they can. The museum on Gadsden’s Wharf marks the site where the estimated 45% of America’s enslaved population entered the country.

“We definitely get pretty good use out of our tissue boxes,” Pryor says.

While the museum tackles serious history and topics, it is also a celebration of African American culture. It features deep dives into history through documentaries, written stories and images. It also feature modern art and traditions of cooking that are prevalent into the present.

“Some of those comments some of those responses are one that’s an incredibly moving experience. That it’s a powerful one, often for individuals who are people of African descent, but quite frankly, members of any number of communities walk away with a sense of pride, to see just the sheer resilience and ingenuity of the human experience manifested in this way,” Pryor says.

Julie Lumpkin, a native of Columbia South Carolina, made it a point to book tickets in tandem with her trip to the coast.

“My previous ancestors, were slave owners originally in Georgia, and then they during the Civil War, they emigrated to South Columbia, South Carolina, and own slaves there. And I have great aunts who have written stories of that. time in their lives, and they became civil rights activists,” Lumpkin says.

Lumpkin says she has worked to share that history, the writings and artifacts with museums and documentaries. She looked forward to visiting the museum to hear more stories and learn about her own family and the state’s history. She says she thinks anyone in the area should go and people should make it a priority to visit.

“This museum is a very important statement about telling the truth. They absolutely should come here and be open to the beautiful stories that are being told here,” Lumpkin says.

Pryor says the museum will be rotating out its special exhibit five times in the first year it is open so there will always be something new to learn and interact with.

The IAAM staff suggest pre-booking your tickets and planning your trip in advance.