Hooray for the Hub

Aug. 20, 2013 @ 04:08 PM

Our area has seen a rich and robust history since Bartlett Durham gave the North Carolina Railroad four acres for a station – and gave the city that would grow up around the station its name.

That history is celebrated here in myriad ways – on historical markers, in the North Carolina Collection at the Durham Public Library, in archives at N. C. Central and Duke universities, through the stewardship of groups such as the St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation/Hayti Heritage Center and Preservation Durham.

It has been told in Jean Bradley Griffin’s esteemed “Durham: A History,” and in countless other books and articles both popular and scholarly. It has been accessible to many through Gary Kueber’s labor of love, “Open Durham.”

But to this date, there has been no central point devoted exclusively to commemorating and sharing Durham’s history. No hub, if you will, for remembering and learning from our past.

That will change in a matter of weeks when the History Hub, the Museum of Durham History’s first building, opens for business.

The Herald-Sun’s Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan detailed the work that’s being completed on the Hub, which previously was the Durham Area Transit Authority’s bus station at the western edge of the Downtown Loop.

By design and by necessity, the Hub will not be a collection of glass-encased objects and dusty historic artifacts. The space is small – but will be intensely used and will capitalize imaginatively on technology.

Exhibits will include “Durham A to Z,” highlighting a different aspect of the city’s history each month. A timeline’s high-quality photos of significant moments in our past will be gateways to more information at the touch of the screen. In the Story Room, visitors will be able to record their Durham stories to be shared with later visitors.

The museum will take full advantage of its location in the midst of historic districts. “Look Beyond the Windows” will call attention to the rehabilitated tobacco warehouses, downtown Durham, West Village and the nearby, iconic N. C. Mutual Life Insurance Building.

The museum will stress the stories behind pictures, buildings, artifacts and the like. It will seek to demonstrate that, as Executive Director Katie Spencer told Vaughan, “history is not sepia-toned. . . It was full color to the people who lived it.”

Lewis Myers, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, pointed out that the museum’s “niche is really story-telling, and the space we have will force us to do that.”

It has taken the commitment and zeal of score of volunteers, and the support of city and county government and any number of businesses and other donors, to get the museum to this point, on the very cusp of opening.  The vision of its founders goes well beyond the compact space of the Hub, and Spencer noted that they hope to outgrow the space.

But right now, she said, “we’re just excited to be here.”

So are we, and look forward to the Oct. 12 grand opening of The Hub.