The Safe House Black History Museum in Greensboro, Alabama, repurposes the home where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought refuge from the Ku Klux Klan two weeks prior to his assassination to highlight the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Hale County. The museum documents the 1950s and ’60s struggle for equality at the local level. Originally contained in a single pair small shotgun houses in the Depot neighborhood, the museum was founded by Mrs. Theresa Burroughs in 1991. The project connected the original museum house with an adjacent shotgun house. The exterior of the existing buildings were restored to their original condition, and the second shotgun house created a gallery space to featuring rotating exhibits of African American art. The minimal addition provided a new reception area for the museum and connected the existing buildings, with roofing signaling continuity.
A hallmark of this team’s approach to the project was its combination of a light touch to preserve the historical structures and “homespun” nature of the intimate museum with a thoughtful incorporation of a glass memorial and reorganization of works. Visitors experience a balance of authenticity of the small space and airiness. The new organization, from the modest common entry to the gallery and memorial to the chronological exhibits, promotes a sense of equality and allows visitors to make sense of the exhibits in a self-guided tour. In addition, the courtyard serves as a defined events space, and the glass overlooks the neighborhood, giving visitors a more contextual experience.