The New Winston Museum — or Muse Winston-Salem — may have finally found a permanent home, but a lot of hard work is still ahead for its organizers. There’s so much potential for community benefit, we wish the nonprofit organization every success and hope the community will rally behind it.
Monday night, the Winston-Salem City Council approved the purchase of the former U.S. Bankruptcy Court building on Liberty Street, and its 1.5 acre site for $1.65 million; it will lease the ground floor of the two-story building to the museum for $1 a month. The museum would use the space as a home base and for exhibitions.
“We believe the city needs a museum telling the history of all our communities,” Interim Executive Director Mike Wakeford said after the council meeting.
Dedicated to preserving the cultural history of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, the New Winston Museum came to life in 2012 in a temporary site on South Marshall Street. But in 2017, it closed its exhibit space and moved into temporary offices downtown while looking for a permanent home.
The use of the building on Liberty Street will certainly give it a leg up.
The museum, run entirely on private funds, is planning a capital campaign in 2020 to raise the money needed to convert the building space into a museum. The whole process may take a year or 18 months.
The site is historic in itself; Colonial-era slave Peter Oliver had a farm there after purchasing his freedom. The museum plans to share his story with visitors. The location, just south of downtown and set back from Liberty Street, may seem to be off the beaten path. But it has ample parking and a strollway bridge being built over Business 40 would lead pedestrians straight to it. The museum could be an essential part of a full-day agenda of sightseeing in the City of Arts and Entertainment.
During the museum’s occupancy on Marshall Street, it produced a number of high-quality exhibits and programs that were entertaining and informative. A permanent home will allow it to continue fulfilling its mission.
The museum also plans on using a new name: Muse Winston-Salem, with “Muse” standing for “Museum of Storytelling, Understanding & Engagement.” It’s catchy and elegant.
Winston-Salem has a rich history full of remarkable, industrious characters and events, some of which played a significant role in defining America. Our city deserves a space to tell our story — or, rather, our many stories.