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U.S. National Slavery Museum board member and eminent historian shares his vision for the facility
Date published: 9/11/2004
By PAMELA GOULD
Franklin's focus isn't on fund raising. It isn't on the nuts and bolts of how to get a museum built and operating. His expertise is history and his intent is that the story told will be authentic, authoritative and on target.
When asked his biggest concern, Franklin's reply was immediate.
"We spread ourselves out too thin--and therefore become competitors with all the other museums," he said. "I want us to have a special mission."
Successfully telling the story of slavery is a mission that requires educating the public effectively and dramatically, Franklin said.
That is why he keeps coming back to the image of a ship.
He sees that as the literal and symbolic vehicle for the story because that is how the slaves arrived--first to Virginia and later to ports in cities such as Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans.
Architect Chien Chung Pei designed the three-story structure with a full-size replica slave ship as its centerpiece, but Franklin isn't certain that will be as powerful as his vision.
"I want to give some notion of what it meant to be wrenched away from your home and packed in like sardines and be dragged to an unknown world," he said.
"We talk about the ships from Europe coming in, and people coming in to the promised land. This was different."
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