By Emma Castleberry
Since 2015, Hendersonville’s Hands On! Children’s Museum has seen a 30 percent increase in attendance. In 2019, before the pandemic began, the non-profit educational destination welcomed nearly 40,000 visitors.
In 2018, the museum developed a master plan and secured additional space within its building, with a goal of growing the museum from 6,000 to 11,000 square feet. Prior to launching the capital campaign that would fund this expansion, the museum was forced to close for six months because of the pandemic. “During that time, the museum re-evaluated its strategy regarding how it can best serve the community moving forward,” says executive director Joseph Knight. This time of reflection, along with the social justice protests across the nation in the spring of 2020, inspired the museum’s newest project: a new division called The People’s Museum and Walk of Fame.
“In the immediate aftermath of the peaceful demonstrations that took place locally, the conversation began about finding a lasting way to honor BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color),” says Knight. “One idea brought up by many people in our community was the development of an African-American History Museum and cultural center.”
This 1,000-square-foot cultural learning experience will be located in the West Gallery of the museum. “It will preserve, promote and display the unique culture of the people of Hendersonville and Henderson County,” says Knight. The goals of this new space are trifold: fostering a safe and educational environment that celebrates diversity; empowering Henderson County’s citizens to learn their history; and preserving the county’s cultural identity and legacy. The People’s Museum and Walk of Fame will be free to the public and construction is expected to be complete in six to nine months.
Dogwood Health Trust and the City of Hendersonville City Council provided initial funding support for the project. “We are creating a place on our Main Street where people of all ethnicities are celebrated for their contributions to Henderson County,” says Hendersonville City Council member Jerry Smith. “This expansion of Hands On! means that not only can children play with fun, engaging exhibits but they can also learn relevant history of the local community. Furthermore, the presence of the Walk of Fame in the People’s Museum means that there will be annual additions to the museum and opportunities to celebrate new inductees.”
Learn more at HandsOnWNC.org. Fundraising is under way to raise additional funds to complete the People’s Museum and Walk of Fame project. For more information about how you can donate to the People’s Museum and Walk of Fame project, call the museum at 828.697.8333 ext.223 or email email@example.com.