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City awards American Rescue Plan Act Funds to VSU's Copeland Museum

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Posted at 12:35 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 12:35:04-04

VALDOSTA, Ga. — The Copeland African American Museum at Valdosta State University recently received a $15,000 American Rescue Plan Act grant from the City of Valdosta. The funds will support the museum’s intention to become the preeminent field trip destination for elementary, middle, and high school students across South Georgia.

When applying for the American Rescue Plan Act funding, Dr. Amy Watson, interim museum director, noted that she was seeking ongoing program support due to COVID-19.

The Copeland African American Museum was forced to close its doors for several months in 2020 due to the global health crisis, like many cultural, educational, and historical destinations around the world.

“We took advantage of the decrease in operational activity and used that time to sharpen our strategic initiative and bolster our collaborations and infrastructure to support hosting more and larger student group tours upon reopening,” she shared. “Now, our focus is to help students recover learning loss from the pandemic through programmatic field trips to the museum.”

“Research has shown that understanding and retention from active learning is significantly higher,” she continued. “To address this need, we partnered with various programs across campus to create age-appropriate learning activities centered on the artifacts in the museum's collection. This serves the multi-purpose function of increasing cultural awareness, pride, and sensitivity while also stimulating learning specific to reading comprehension, critical thinking, and problem solving.”

Later this fall the Copeland African American Museum will unveil a new EMPOWERment Zone to encourage, engage, and motivate young learners and inspire a love of learning through hands-on activities and fun. Watson said the American Rescue Plan Act funds will help provide programming materials for school groups and design hands-on, multi-sensory exhibits that maximize interaction and comprehension.

“Our long-term challenges center on creating and maintaining child-centric exhibits and spaces that adhere to best practices and enhance interactivity and learning,” she added. “While our programming for the 2022-2023 is drastically improved, in order to maintain relevancy and continue to attract teachers and their students year after year, we will have to refresh and update the experience on a regular basis.”

The Copeland African American Museum is dedicated to preserving and uplifting the stories of African American history. It first opened its doors in January 2020 and enjoys welcoming visitors from diverse backgrounds and perspectives who are excited to see the African American memorabilia on display, to share ideas and experiences, and to be inspired to learn more about why African American history matters to everyone.

In 2016 Roy and Cheryl Copeland gifted their entire African American memorabilia collection to VSU’s Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration. A few years later that gift inspired the creation of the Copeland African American Museum, a destination for anyone seeking inspiration, knowledge, a change of perspective, and food for conversation.

The Copeland African American Museum collection spans more than 150 years of history and features more than 100 pieces, which the Copelands began collecting in 1989 when Cheryl Copeland surprised Roy Copeland with a set of autographed Muhammad Ali boxing gloves for Christmas. She continued to select a unique piece of history for him every year, and soon the couple began collecting even more African American memorabilia at live auctions, online auctions, garage sales, antique houses, and more.

During the summer the Copeland African American Museum kicked off an expansion and renovation project that will increase its square footage nearly fourfold. In addition to the EMPOWERment Zone for children, this project will also allow for the creation of a room where visitors can reflect upon the story of the Black experience from enslavement through the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. This transformative experience will provide visitors with the opportunity to learn about and reckon with some challenging aspects of America’s past.

The Copeland African American Museum renovation and expansion project should be completed sometime this fall, assuming no delays. It is a dream come true for the Copelands, who have dedicated their lives to building a legacy of encouraging people of all ages and all ethnicities to examine, explore, and analyze the innovative, creative, and intelligent contributions of African Americans throughout history — and to remember, recognize, and celebrate those contributions all year along.