Although the museum is called the “Underground Railroad” Freedom Center it teaches more than just the struggle to escape slavery. It teaches the history of the problem, the struggle to escape, and the problems faced afterwards. The Museum is also more than just a museum about Black Americans. It includes sections on the strife that faced Women, Native Americans, and Abolitionists, and many others during the time period.
The museum starts with a short film about three fictional slaves. From there one passes a real slave pen and into a small section on the Underground Railroad. This section seems like to little a space to tell too much information. From there the visitor is sent into an immersive video theater where they can experience the escape across the Ohio River. This is one of the best parts of the museum. The video tells the story as if you are there with them.
After seeing everything the second floor has to offer one moves to the top floor, where the bulk of the museums information is presented. From Slavery to Freedom tells the history of slavery in the new world, from the middle passage to the prewar years and ending with the post-Civil War era. This is the main section of the museum where most of the information is contained. Flowing like a river from the early days of the continent and the United States to the Civil War, major events are described alongside the story of the people involved. This creates a more in-depth vision of the times and a less classroom telling. The major problem with this section however is that it leaves out the Underground Railroad. Yes, because the story is told else where it is not included in the time line. This is disconcerting but does not distract too much from the overall experience.
The final sections of the museum are the “The Struggle Continues,” with a short film about modern slavery and injustices, the temporary exhibit area which house different exhibits throughout the year, and Reflect, Respond, Resolve, an interactive area to learn more about injustices in the modern world.
Even though the museum is dedicated to the Underground Railroad and slavery, it does an amazing job of keeping everything even-handed. It tries not to villainize any one group. The museum explains the facts and lets the visitor interpret them as they see fit. It is sensitive to how touchy the subject is. In “Reflect, Respond, Resolve” section the interactive displays have no right answers only more questions.
The museum is a must stop for anyone who has lived in a world with injustice. In our current climate it is even more important that ever.