The Beck Cultural Exchange Center is a history museum and cultural center dedicated to African American culture and history. Beck is also a not for profit organisation and is situated in Knoxville, Tennessee. The center first opened its doors in 1975 and is regarded as the foremost museum of African American artifacts, archives, history and culture not only in East Tennessee but in the State of Tennessee.

The historic two story mansion in which the center is located was built in 1912 and also has a well maintained lawn and garden. Inside the mansion the foremost attractions are the Margaret Carson Library, the Village Market Gift Shop, the Exhibition Hall, the Gallery of Exhibits, the Research Center, the Conference Room and the Great Hall. Not only is the center home to cultural exhibits but it also has a vast collection of resource materials found in the on site museum such as African American memorabilia, documents, journals, newspapers, books and audio recordings.

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Exhibits

As well as feature exhibits the museum is host to a range of permanent exhibits. One of such is the Pioneering Stairway. The exhibition is set on a bright red wall design and lines the stairway. Black and white photographs along with a short biography are mounted on the wall. The focus of this exhibit is to display pioneers of the community including some of the earliest of African American achievers.

The William H. Hastie Room is a brightly decorated room dedicated to the first African American in US history to become a Federal judge, William H. Hastie. The exhibit features several plaques with detailed information on his life and career as well as personal items such as his judge's robe, books he had owned during his time at Harvard Law School and framed awards on the wall.

The Story of Knoxville's Urban Renewal Exhibit records the step by step urban renewal of Knoxville since 1959 and the impact this had on the community in terms of black business men and women. It records the demolishing of both stately homes and slums in 1949 and the consequent erasing of black heritage in the area.

Within the museum there are also displays which are part of the permanent exhibitions. One example is of the Offices and names of Black Officials from the date of 1869 to present day listed in an informative visual presentation.

Aside from the permanent exhibits is the Research Laboratory and Movie History Center which containing historic archives centered on social organizations, churches and schools in the local area. As well as almost all the black newspapers which have ever been published and which date back to 1875, the center contains The Knoxville College Collection. This collection is open to academics or everyday people who wish to find out more about African American History. Within the archives are also a vast collection of movies directed by black directors. Other collections which are found in the collection are The Austin High Collection and The Knoxville College Collection dedicated to those who attended the college since it was founded in 1875.

Visitors who wish to purchase items from The Village Market Gift Shop can peruse the many items on sale. The shop holds literature, posters, cups, crafts, local hair products and arts. Visitors can also buy a Legacy Brick which is a brick, personalised to the buyers requirements and placed within the Legacy Pathway in the rotunda area as you enter the grounds. As with the sales from the gift shop, the revenue from the legacy bricks revenue is invested back in the The Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

Ongoing programs

The event program at the center is varied and seasonal. Fundraising events throughout the year include guided book discussions, book signings, Black History Month events, feature exhibitions and concerts. The museum can also be be hired for private events and parties such as weddings, school reunions and graduation parties.

On certain days of the week The Beck Genealogical Society meets at the center and aid each other in researching and documenting family histories. A membership scheme called Beck Membership is in place for those who wish to purchase it. The scheme ranges from Emerging Leader Level, Friendship Level, Friends Level, Partner Level to Visionary Level. The center also encourages the public to donate through becoming a member of the Beck Legacy Society, volunteering for the organisation or offering a multi year or one time donation.

Back to: Knoxville, TN

1927 I Av, Knoxville, TN 37915, website, Phone: 865-524-8461

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