CINCINNATI — Although the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has been closed to visitors for months, its staff has been hard at work promoting equality and social justice.
"We are excited, but yet we are also very conscious and cautious about the opportunity to open our doors, and we want everyone to know that we will continue to be a resource, whether our doors are open or closed, as a resource for understanding, a resource for knowledge," said Chris Miller, a senior director at the Freedom Center, ahead of its scheduled reopening to the public at 10 a.m. Friday.
The Center closed to all visitors on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller said after the Freedom Center closed, it changed how it continued its mission of inclusion.
"We closed at a time where that's when we get a lot of school groups," he said. "We get very busy during that time period. And so, we worked diligently to provide some type of resources while families were at home. We worked diligently to pivot our direction to virtual and digital programming, as well as resources to provide for parents and educators to supplement their educational needs."
That content, which includes lesson plans and recordings of video discussions, remains available on the Freedom Center's website. The Freedom Center also plans to host another virtual Zoom discussion about policing in America on its site July 29.
As part of the reopening process, the Freedom Center has taken extra precautions to ensure guests and staff members remained safe and healthy while visiting.
Those precautions include the online purchase of tickets to limit the number of guests in the center at any time, extensive cleaning protocols, floor markings for social distancing and other measures to decrease points of contact as people interact with exhibits.
"In some areas where we have push-button access, we now have foot-pedal access, where you can press a foot on a pedal and then you can hear that audible sound," Miller said.
And although the future remains uncertain, Miller added the staff of the Freedom Center is continuing to adapt to be ready to serve and educate.
"Well, at first it may have been frustrating, but then we had to figure out to address the challenge, 'Well, how can we remain to have a voice?'" Miller said when the Center closed in March. "We've been making blog posts that connect the history with the current day. We have done the lesson plans and activity books. And now we are doing one on policing. And we will continue to do, to be a convener of these difficult but critical conversations."
For more information, you can visit the museum's website here.