Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center celebrated an interactive history exhibit recently completed by MTSU graduate students with a May 26 reception at the museum.
The new exhibit, “Education and Empowerment: African American Education in Rutherford County,” was unveiled at Bradley, located at 415 S. Academy St., according to a city of Murfreesboro news release.
The public event coincided with the Red and Black Holloway Reunion, a weekend-long celebration for students who attended Murfreesboro’s original Holloway High School. The annual festivities are held each Memorial Day holiday weekend.
“We are excited to share this new exhibit with the Murfreesboro community,” said Vonchelle Stembridge, program coordinator at Bradley Academy for Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department.
“Bradley Academy is a cultural resource that serves as a Rutherford County tourist destination with programming that promotes African-American history. We are thankful to MTSU’s Public History Program for partnering with us to tell this history.”
Bradley worked with Dr. Brenden Martin, director of MTSU’s Public History Program, to develop the interactive exhibit, which features two touch-screen monitors filled with images of Bradley and Holloway’s history.
The project chronicles how local African-American schools served as a beacon of empowerment and activism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The history is told through a first-floor wall display that includes oral histories, photographs and material culture.
Public history students researched, planned and constructed the permanent exhibit as part of Martin’s “Essentials of Museum Management” class.
“This kind of class prepares students for the way museums operate with professionals assigned different aspects of the project exhibit,” Martin, a professor in MTSU’s Department of History, said in the release.
“The goal of the project is to assist museums with historical displays while teaching students about the importance of working together as teams.”
For information on the project, contact Martin at 615-898-2643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the museum, contact Stembridge at 615-962-8773 or visit www.murfreesborotn.gov/parks.
The city of Murfreesboro began managing and operating the Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center after signing a 2015 transfer agreement with the Bradley Academy Historical Association Inc. Under the agreement, the Parks and Recreation Department manages, operates and provides programming for the museum facility.
The Bradley Board and Association serves as an advisory/friends group and raises funds and provides volunteers for special programs, exhibits and events.
The nonprofit Bradley Academy Historical Association Inc. has worked for more than 40 years to restore the landmark and preserve the history of its contribution to the community. Bradley Academy, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, was founded in 1809 as a school for white males. Among its earliest students was James K. Polk, who would become the 11th president of the United States.
Bradley Academy relocated to its current site in the 1830s. From 1884 until the 1950s, it was an elementary and secondary school for African-Americans in Rutherford County, who struggled to obtain a formal education in the post-Civil War period. It closed in 1955 in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and after being used for office space and storage for a time, fell into disrepair and faced demolition until community supporters took up the restoration cause.
The 1917 building is an example of standardized, early 20th-century schoolhouse architecture. In 2017, the structure will be 100 years old.
A one-hour documentary on the Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center, produced by Murfreesboro’s CityTV, can be viewed below.