By Heather Bell
Christiansburg Institute, Inc., got a big boost toward its preservation efforts recently with the award of a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The successful grant proposal, titled ‘The School Has Gone to the People: Increasing Community Interaction with Christiansburg Institute Museum & Archives’ (CIMA) has been awarded as part of the Mellon Foundation’s ‘Community-Based Archives’ grant program.
Christiansburg Industrial Institute educated generations of African-American families from across the state of Virginia and beyond for a century. CI, Inc.’s efforts today focus on preserving the history of the school and renovating the remaining building from the school to be used as a museum detailing the important role the institute served in the community.
CI, Inc., Executive Director Chris Sanchez said the grant will go a long way in supporting CI, Inc.’s mission.
“The inter-generational social movement happening today is clear; the equitable preservation and reinvestment in black histories and stories is a civic responsibility and moral obligation inseparable from any honest pursuit of justice,” said Sanchez. “We are tremendously honored to receive a successful grant award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, significantly empowering Christiansburg Institute to keep strong at our pursuit of justice today.”
The grant award will fund “artifact maintenance and preservation materials, a series of educational community programs curated to increase public engagement with CII’s history, and a part-time archivist tasked with cataloging the organization’s archival collections,” the organization announced. “The preservation of CIMA’s collections will provide the public with unique insight into the social, economic, and political atmosphere in Southwest Virginia during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries for African Americans that attended Christiansburg Industrial Institute in Montgomery County.”
Christiansburg Institute was established in 1866, one year after the Emancipation Proclamation and conclusion of the Civil War, by the federal government’s Department of War and its extension agency, the Freedmen’s Bureau.
“Today, we operate a community-based living museum and digital repository containing an archival collection powerfully illustrating the 100-year legacy of the historic school and African-American life and culture across Southwest Virginia,” according to CI, Inc. “Key to our community education and cultural organizing work is offering an honest and nuanced telling of African-American stories and history in rural Appalachia, particularly where history is contested and trauma is inter-generational.”
Christiansburg Institute Museum & Archives (CIMA) and the Learning Resource Action Center (LRAC) will eventually be housed in the historic Edgar A. Long building once preservation efforts are completed at the building, hopefully by 2024.