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Arts & Culture

In Bowling Green, African American Museum hopes to reopen following tornado, fire

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John Hardin
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A museum dedicated to telling the history of African-Americans in Bowling Green is trying to recover from a one-two punch of deadly storms, followed by a fire.

The African American Museum in Bowling Green sits just outside the campus of Western Kentucky University. It was one of the many structures that suffered damaged during the tornado that ripped through the community on December 10-11. Then, on Dec. 22, an electrical fire broke out in the museum, causing further damage.

Board member and WKU Professor Emeritus of History John Hardin said the museum is now boarded up, and volunteers continue the process of doing inventory work and salvaging items that were damaged in the storm and fire.

“Many of those documents, some of them were 60, 70, 80, almost 100 years old,” Hardin said. “And so you had to be a little careful with the old documents, the old artifacts.”

Hardin said members of the campus and Warren County communities have come to the museum’s aid following the tornado and fire damage. “We’ve been helped by the Kentucky Museum, and even had a person from the Corvette Museum allow us to freeze some of our documents in a few boxes.”

The Corvette Museum has a walk-in freezer that it offered to house damaged artifacts and documents that the museum thought were most in need of special care.

The museum is undergoing inspections that will determine if and when the facility can be reopened. Hardin said there’s currently no timeline for when a decision will ultimately be made.

Board members have applied for financial aid through FEMA and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation. The museum has also set up a GoFundMe account for donations from the public.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that the African American Museum in Bowling Green was owned by Western Kentucky University. In fact, the museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is not owned by WKU. 

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