Years-in-the-making Weeksville exhibit to open during Black History Month

A look inside the new exhibit, “In Pursuit of Freedom,” at the Weeksville Heritage Center.
Photo by Susan De Vries

It has been years in the making, and as weekend tours of Weeksville’s historic Hunterfly houses resume, visitors will be able to get a glimpse of the completed “In Pursuit of Freedom” exhibit.

Set inside the only reproduction house amidst the row of original 19th century dwellings that are part of the educational complex, the exhibition uses images, text and sound to draw visitors into the social history of the free Black community founded by James Weeks in the 1830s. Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner got a sneak peak of the IPOF exhibit in 2021, but the continuing pandemic further delayed the opening.

The origins of the exhibit go back to a public history collaboration between Weeksville, the then Brooklyn Historical Society and now Center for Brooklyn History and the Irondale Ensemble Project in the early 2000s. The collaboration launched an education website about the anti-slavery movement in Brooklyn, an original Irondale Enemble Project production “Color Between the Lines’ premiered in 2012 and the “In Pursuit of Freedom: Brooklyn Abolitionists” exhibit opened at BHS in 2014.

Photo by Susan De Vries

In 2018, Weeksville’s pop-up exhibit “In Pursuit of Freedom Now” explored Black activism in the borough and beyond while the opening of the permanent exhibition was delayed.

That now completed permanent exhibition, designed by Matter Practices with graphics by Pure+Applied, takes up the first floor of a wood frame house constructed in 1993 to replace one destroyed in a fire. Maps are set into the wood floor to give a sense of context, wood-framed screens displaying images and interactive features line the walls and warm wood exhibit panels divide the space. A timeline of major moments in the fight for freedom is paired with excerpts from letters, speeches and publications, and the voices of former residents of the area can be cued up via wall-mounted oral history stations.

“IPOF represents an extremely important part of Black Brooklyn’s history and Brooklyn’s history more broadly,” Raymond Codrington, president and chief executive officer of Weeksville Heritage Center told Brownstoner. “Weeksville has been at the center of activism, racial justice and neighborhood change since its inception. It is truly gratifying to see these issues in dialogue with each other in the exhibit in such a compelling way.”

Photo by Susan De Vries

While full access to the exhibit is still being rolled out, for now visitors on reserved tours will be able to see it.

New collaborative programming is also being launched to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. The ‘Something Like Freedom’ series will bring together artists, activists, community members and others to explore the past and future meanings of abolition and liberation. The first program in the series, a reading group in partnership with Wendy’s Subway, takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Tour reservations and information about the programming planned to complement the exhibit can be found via the Weeskville website.

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.