The Underground Railroad Museum of Burlington County will host a grand opening this Saturday, following three years of renovations to a 143-year old house located in Historic Smithville Park.
Louise Calloway, the museum’s founder and director, originally opened a combination education center and coffeeshop behind Wheatley’s Pharmacy in Burlington City, a former escape stop on the Underground Railroad.
But when financial difficulties caused Calloway to close shop in 2012, the county stepped in to find a new home for her collection of documents, books and art.
Most of the museum’s holdings are from Calloway’s personal collection and offer a look at the role the county played in the freedom movement. Those include artifacts from slave plantations and those excavated in an archeological dig at Timbuctoo, a now defunct village in Westampton Twp. founded by free blacks and former slaves.
There is also a collection pertaining to the numerous notable achievements of the Still family of Burlington County. William Still, an African-American abolitionist, historian and author was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. His brother, James Still, though barred from medical school because of his race, became known as the “Black Doctor of the Pines”, after learning medicine through self-study and while serving as an apprentice to a white doctor.
The North Star Collection contains photographs, films, books and other documents pertaining to the local Abolitionist movement.
A ribbon cutting will kick things off at 1:30 p.m., followed by a libation ceremony by storyteller, Queen Nur.
The adjacent Smithville Mansion Annex Gallery will feature a Black History Month art exhibit with live music, spoken word performance plus light refreshments, beginning at 10 a.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – 803 Smithville Rd., Eastampton, NJ.