NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - From learning about Africa's waterways to helping identify the people who built its museum building, the Mariners' Museum and Park is putting the focus on African and African American maritime history for Black History Month.
With the museum galleries still shut down to in-person visitors due to COVID-19, this year's celebration of black culture moved online.
"We have public programs like our African kingdoms program which is going to be a new series," said Lauren T. Furey, the museum's Manager for Visitor Engagement. "The second program is African waterways. [We're] doing the Nile and Carthage."
On this side of the Atlantic, the museum is offering lectures on the role of Virginia's waterways in the Underground Railroad, among other topics.
As part of its "Hidden Histories" lessons, the museum is also attempting to identify Black people shown in its photo collection, including a group of Black men who helped build the museum itself.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Furey says it was important for the museum to continue its tradition of honoring Black, African and African American contributions to the maritime world.
"It's a celebration of the African American maritime experience and we need to highlight that. We need to teach people," she told News 3.
Throughout the month, lectures and lessons are being offered live online. Those who missed it can view the video recordings on the museum's YouTube page.
And, while moving content online was in response to COVID-19, Furey says it's only allowed more people to get to know the museum and its offerings.
"Our reach has just gone crazy. It's so exciting for all of us to be able to talk to people from all over the United States and all over the world, really. Our blog readership is up about 300 percent," she said.
As for when the museum will allow people to see its collection in person again? News 3 is told late spring is the goal.