New Black history museum opens in Portsmouth

Jordan Crawford | 12/30/2013, 12:38 p.m.
A new museum on the Southside holds artifacts that tell the story of Blacks in Portsmouth.

A portion of the exhibit features Portsmouth’s first public high school for Blacks, I.C. Norcom. On another wall hang photographs of unidentified people and events. The public is asked to provide information if they know who or what the photographs depict.

Exhibit preparers Pat Gooch and Michael Dowell from Amherst, Va., helped set up the displays and their corresponding labels.

“What Dr. Swann-Wright said she was going to accomplish here, she accomplished,” said Mae Breckenridge-Haywood, historical society president and visionary of the project.

“Many people came together to make this museum a reality and I think visitors will enjoy it.”

Part of the challenge now is getting the word out the museum is open.

Historical society first vice president Iva Foust has spoken at dozens of Portsmouth civic league meetings over the past year, introducing the public to the museum and raising more than $21,000 toward its grand opening campaign.

“Many people didn’t know about the library’s existence,” she said.

For now, the museum will be open by appointment, but 10 volunteer docents already have been trained to guide visitors and regular hours will be determined early next year, Breckenridge-Haywood said.

The public opening of the museum followed a gala banquet event at The Edmonds Center in Portsmouth. Over 200 supporters and well-wishers attended.

“I’ve been in the trenches with this project for a long time,” Breckenridge-Haywood said. “I’m very, very pleased with the outcome.”