One of the city’s top cultural resources has filled its most prominent position after an eight-month vacancy.
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia has hired Tasha Chambers as its new director. The organization hired Chambers in August. The museum announced her hiring on Thursday.
Chambers, 34, is a graduate of Howard University who has a background in public relations and marketing. She has worked locally for ChildFund International, a nonprofit, and the Martin Agency, a powerhouse PR firm. Her resume also includes stints at the Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity, as well as Black Entertainment Television.
The museum has been without a public face since January, when longtime director and CEO Stacy Burrs stepped down to accept a job with Venture Richmond. Burrs was instrumental in seeing the organization through a lengthy fundraising and design process for its new location at the Leigh Street Armory in Jackson Ward.
The $8 million facelift to the 120-year-old structure is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year, with an opening set for January 2016. With the completion of the project’s initial phase, the museum will encompass about 13,000 square feet. A second phase will bring the total to 20,000 square feet, with the addition of space for more community engagement.
We caught up with Chambers Thursday morning to chat about her vision for the museum and its role in the ongoing citywide conversation of how best to memorialize Shockoe Bottom.
The following is an edited transcript.
RM: You’ve spent your career in communications and marketing. What attracted you to the museum?
TC: As a volunteer of the museum for quite a long time, I definitely felt this would be a good opportunity for me because it’s a passion of mine. I’ve always been a big advocate for African American history and telling that story in Virginia. Now, I get to do that full time and share that story with our supporters who desire to learn more about this part of Virginia and American history.
RM: What’s your vision for the museum?
TC: I think my vision is in alignment with Stacy Burrs’. We both agree that the new museum should be more than paintings or prints on the wall. This museum should be a place where people learn about African American history and participate in our community, engage with our programming. We have programming set up to reach at–risk youth in the Jackson Ward community. This is like the people’s museum. It’s a place where people can come and have conversations about true reconciliation in Virginia, because there’s a piece of history for everyone here.
RM: What role do you see yourself and the museum playing as the city continues the conversation of how to best memorialize Shockoe Bottom?
TC: We are huge partners of [state delegate] Delores McQuinn’s efforts to revitalize the slave trail. We’re definitely working in tandem with them to make sure that we’re at the table; I was just at the Richmond Speaks event on Tuesday. The Black History Museum’s focus is post-Civil War. The Slave Trail Commission’s is before the Civil War. They have their own story to tell and we have ours. But at the end of the day, both of our objectives are to tell the stories of African Americans of Virginia, enslaved Africans and their descendants.