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After Pandemic Shuts Down Much Of Louisville’s Cultural Sector, Roots 101 African-American Museum Hits Pause On Opening

Eddie Davis

The Roots 101 African-American Museum was slated to open on Museum Row in downtown Louisville this month. But the museum’s founder and CEO said his plans went sideways after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted educational programs and buildout of the physical space.

“So many opportunities coming together have just stopped,” Lamont Collins said.

Collins reports an approximate loss of $25,000 so far and anticipates, at this point, opening in late June or early July — “probably our best bet,” he said.

“We have some artifacts that we still need to bring in from California,” Collins said. “We still have some build-out that had to stop because of funding.”

The museum’s revenue shortfalls also have Collins re-evaluating the space itself. He said it’s possible they’ll have to downsize and consider other spaces to house the collection he’s been amassing. But he is holding out hope he can realize his vision for this museum on Museum Row, alongside several other celebrated museums in the city and it's close proximity to the Ohio River, which has significant ties to the Underground Railroad. 

In the meantime, he’s moved a lot of museum's educational efforts onto digital platforms like YouTube.

“We're doing poetry segments, we're doing history segments and we're doing things that kids can learn at home,” Collins said. 

He said he’s also partnering with other organizations and thinking about ways to “be creative on creating things.”

“We always say we had a 500-year plan.” he said. “And people said, ‘What do you mean a 500-year plan? The plan was never to be somewhere five or six years. The plan was for it to be a legacy that goes on for years.” 

Last fall, Collins told WFPL he got the idea for the museum from a story he heard on NPR. The segment featured a collector named Oran Z, who was looking for a home for a number of black history artifacts that used to be housed in a now-shuttered museum he had run. Collins said he reached out to the California collector, and told him about his own hope of launching a black history museum in Louisville.  

Architectural Digest listed Roots 101 in its complication of “top museums opening in 2020.”