“Do not despair we are ‘On The MOVE,'” the National Black Doll Museum said in announcing that it is closing its storefront galleries in Mansfield due to the challenges of coronavirus and looking for a new site, the institution announced yesterday.
“The building doesn’t meet the basic guidelines to keep you healthy,” the museum said on facebook. “In addition 80 percent of our revenue is derived from groups, tours, and schools all of which has cancelled for 2020. Therefore we have forgone our lease and a new tenant will occupy the space as of Aug. 1.”
The Mansfield News reported: “In early June the owner of the building announced his intention to raise the rent and do work in the building, forcing [museum co-founder Debra] Britt to make the tough decision to vacate by June 30. The space has already been leased by a new business. ‘l wasn’t prepared to go. I cried for a week. So much of what we built up is gone. How do we keep up those connections?’ Britt asked.”
The museum was founded by Britt and her sister Felicia Walker. On Facebook, they quote the early 20th century Black nationalist Marcus Garvey: “Mothers! Give your children dolls that look like them to play with and cuddle. They will learn as they grow older to love and care for their own children and not neglect them.”
The museum aims to preserve representations of African Americans in dolls—and through the dolls tell Black history. It began with the sisters’ personal collections, then became a traveling exhibit, before they moved the collection into a storefront at 288 North Main St. in 2012. They filled a main gallery and surrounding rooms with Black Barbies; African dolls; Black Cabbage Patch Kids, dolls depicting Black historical figures, musicians, politicians, Jackie Robinson other athletes.
“With a heavy heavy and broken heart we have closed our doors for all on-site programming including workshops, tours exhibit openings and our Annual fundraiser tea,” the museum announced on Facebook on March 21. “The coronavirus and National Emergency is a real threat and we must all do our best to take care of each other.”
Now an email shared with museum members reads, “We have been hoping for some time to move to a bigger site, and the COVID-closure has given us the moment to make this move. The forthcoming change in our building is only one of many changes we’re undertaking to become a bigger, better, more impactful museum. But, rest assured: our mission will not change! We will still exist to nurture self-esteem, promote diversity, and celebrate the art and history of Black dolls. We will continue to tell Black history through the eyes of a doll collector. We will exist to be a ‘place for all people’ where important discussions can take place and community can grow.”
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