Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia soon may need to change
its motto — “A little room with a big purpose.” Recently the museum received a $250,000
challenge grant from the DTE Foundation to help create a larger permanent home for
its collection. Since 1996, the museum has been housed in a single small room at Ferris’
Arts and Sciences Commons. An expansion of the current space will allow for enhanced
public viewing of its collection of more than 9,000 artifacts. The museum’s mission
is to use items of racial intolerance to promote racial understanding and healing.
“We have been doing good work creating an environment where people can talk intelligently about race and race relations. The grant from the DTE Foundation will help us do an even better job,” says David Pilgrim, Ferris’ vice president for diversity and inclusion, and the museum’s founder.
When completed, the new space will allow visits by larger groups. Also, instructional displays will help put the artifacts into their proper historical context.
The DTE Foundation grant is especially timely because of the growth of the Jim Crow Museum’s collection. Recently, the museum received two important gifts from private collectors. The Vaughn Collection was built by Otis Vaughn, who as a child picked cotton and experienced first-hand the effects of Jim Crow laws and customs in the south. This remarkable collection of artifacts documents the African American experience from the shores of West Africa through the Civil Rights period and into the present.
The other gift the museum recently received is a collection of approximately 100 rare dolls assembled by Marc Charbonnet, a successful designer and owner of the New York interior design firm, Marc Edward Charbonnet Associates. His collection of dolls includes both those meant to demean African Americans as well as those that celebrate black culture.
In addition to a virtual tour of the museum, a question of the month column, letters to the museum and more, you can help match the DTE Foundation grant at the museum’s website, www.ferris.edu/jimcrow.
This story was originally published in the Spring 2011 issue of Ferris Magazine