The Coweta County African American Alliance and African American Heritage Museum and Research Center is beginning a major restructuring, and is looking for volunteers to serve on its executive committee and board of trustees.
The Alliance and museum have been in existence since the early 2000s and are looking for new leadership. The new structure will also allow for more members of the community to be involved in the organization and the museum.
The organization is seeking to fill the executive committee, executive staff and board of trustees positions. All positions are volunteer. Once they are in place, hopes are also to fill several volunteer museum staff positions
Currently, there are only three active volunteers – Eve Olsen, who serves as genealogist and interim secretary, Arnese Chambers, chair for marketing and public relations, and a social media manager.
Getting the new committees and boards in place will help achieve a vision for the organization, said Olsen.
“One of the goals is starting with a strong foundation of leadership and then turning the museum into what it could be. There is so much potential,” Olsen said.
The organization is seeking people from diverse backgrounds with experience in leadership. The executive committee will be the organization’s policy setting arm, with executive staff overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization and museum.
The board of trustees is envisioned as a group of leaders and influencers from all facets of the larger community, with a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Membership isn’t limited to those in Coweta County.
Chambers envisions the board of trustees having members from civic, religious, legal, educational, business and health care fields, as well as retirees and private citizen leaders who are committed to the organization and its success.
Executive committee positions include chairperson, vice chair, chair emeritus, secretary and two or three committee members. The chair emeritus is envisioned as someone who was involved with the organization in the past, who can lend vital perspective and knowledge.
Executive staff members include president and CEO, executive vice president and chief operating officer, chief financial officer, senior vice president for development and marketing/communications.
Those who are interested in getting involved with the organization with a committee, staff or board position are asked to submit a summary of their experience and interest, or a resume, by Aug. 31. For more information, contact Chambers at 678-373-2765.
The museum and research center is housed at the Farmer Street Cemetery. The cemetery was a burial place for slaves and former slaves, with just one marked grave. Archeological studies have been conducted over the years, and another one is currently underway by students at Georgia State University.
On Tuesday, the Newnan City Council will vote on an ordinance to reestablish the Farmer Street Cemetery Commission.
In 2000, the mayor and council approved the creation of the commission for the purpose of planning for the protection, preservation and improvements of the cemetery. The commission made a final presentation to the council in 2003 and its work was considered complete.
The reformed commission would have the same purpose with specific language added to support the overall ‘promotion’ of the cemetery.
The museum itself is in a historic shotgun house, moved from East Broad Street when it was set to be torn down.
There are a lot of ideas for in-house redesign, Olsen said, and they’d also like to add more virtual museum tours online.
The museum currently has a fairly small collection of artifacts and documents about Coweta residents, but hopes are to expand the collection through loans and donations from community members.
Increasing the museum’s collection and exhibits is a huge piece of the restructuring plan, said Chambers. One roadblock is a current shortage of storage space.
In addition to getting more items from the community, Chambers would love to see the museum be able to take loans from other museums.
“My goal is for us to collaborate with other museums and historical societies,” said Chambers. “For the furtherance of and sustainability of the museum, we cannot operate as an entity just within Coweta County,” she said.
The alliance and the museum is about more than just the history inside the four walls of the building and cemetery.
“There is African American history in Coweta, and it’s as old as the white history,” Olsen said. “However, it is not well known among all of Coweta’s citizens, and it’s a shame.” Olsen said she is still learning about the various historic Black communities in Coweta.
“There is a fascinating history that is only known in the African American communities, still,” Olsen said.
For more information about the Coweta African American Alliance and African American Heritage Museum and Research Center, visit www.ccaahm.com or visit the Coweta County African American Heritage Museum page on Facebook, or call Chambers at 678-373-2765.