MLK Day found my preschooler, my infant and I at the African American Cultural Complex - an independent museum established by Dr. E. B. Palmer at his residence in Raleigh to address the lack of African American history presented in most museums. Because the Complex is also a private residence, visitors must call and make an appointment to come.
We arrived at our scheduled tour time, I in my regular street attire, and my preschooler in this past year's Halloween costume that she insisted on wearing (she was Jessie the Cowgirl from Toy Story). We were led into the house by Dr. Palmer's school-age grandchildren who apparently know the tour so well that they started the introductory video for us while we waited for their grandfather.
Once Dr. Palmer arrived he led us outside onto a paved walking path through the backyard that led first to a small structure about the size of a hotel room. Inside - where it was just as cold as it was outside - were walls lined with photographs, drawings, and placards. The far wall displayed many common items that were invented by African Americans. Dr. Palmer took time to highlight a few such inventions like the bag phone (for those not old enough to remember, this was the precursor to today's cell phone).
After leaving this building, we meandered down the path to the next 'house.' We could see the amphitheater to our left where summer performances of The Amistad are staged. In this next building there were photos of African Americans in law enforcement and rescue professions. A firefighter's uniform and gear hung in one display case.
The final structure on the property highlighted African American cowboys, the Philadelphia born architect behind Duke University's characteristic architecture, and the historically black colleges and universities.
The Complex may be short on actual artifacts, but the real treasure is Dr. Palmer's knowledge of African American history. Your reward for visiting is simply to listen to Dr. Palmer as he presents information on the various topics covered at the Complex. Feel free to ask questions because he will most likely know the answer and be able to share even more relevant information.
This is not the most child-friendly Museum. In fact, I'm very glad that I left my toddler at home because he would not have been able to just sit and listen. Dr. Palmer has dreams for the future of this Complex, but at the present time there are no hands-on exhibits or activities for children. So unless you have school-age kids, I'd recommend skipping this attraction.
All that being said, while listening to Dr. Palmer I noticed a definite lengthening of my preschooler's attention span. I can see the effect that school is having on her in that she's able to sit relatively still and quiet for longer periods while an adult is talking. It's amazing to see this kind of development in your own children.
|A display of various home and farming implements|