A local museum has enlisted a new leader to carry it through some big changes.
Tasha Chambers has taken the helm as museum director of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, as the nonprofit prepares to open in its new home at the renovated Leigh Street Armory in January of 2016.
Chambers, 34, is a Richmond native who attended Highland Springs High School, then later studied at Howard University. She joined the museum Aug. 24, replacing Stacy Burrs, who left for a position with Venture Richmond.
She previously worked in communications with ChildFund International and has volunteered with the museum for about seven years.
“The telling of the story of African Americans in Virginia has always been a passion of mine, so now I’m getting a chance to line up a passion with my profession,” she said.
The Black History Museum began its $13 million endeavor last year to restore and redevelop the 12,000-square-foot armory at 122 W. Leigh St. in Jackson Ward. It will be moving out of its 5,000-square-foot location at 00 W. Clay St.
Construction is complete on about 75 percent of the building, and the museum has raised $10 million of its goal. That money will fund all construction and moving costs, but the organization is continuing to fundraise for the additional $3 million to ensure an endowment and enough money for operations.
“We have to make sure we’re still here 10 years from now,” Chambers said.
Big corporate players in Richmond, like Dominion and Altria, have committed to giving money to the museum, Chambers said.
She said the vast increase in space will allow the museum to expand its community outreach.
She plans to add to the museum’s entertainment offerings, featuring jazz and poetry nights, and expand its educational component, developing programs for inner-city youth that touch on things like technology and character development.
“The old museum format isn’t sustainable anymore,” Chambers said. “You have to provide the other programs for people who want to come to the museum – the exhibits only go so far. This was the best format to keep the museum open, and as a black history museum we have an obligation to give back to the community, especially Jackson Ward.”
Chambers said she is familiar with this type of work from her time at ChildFund International, a nonprofit organization that advocates for societies that promote healthy childhood development around the world.
“I have training in how to make communities sustainable, so I’m excited to bring that experience to the museum,” she said.
The museum has one other full-time staff member in addition to Chambers. It is planning to add a full-time curator by next March, she said.
In the meantime, the museum is still seeking donations for its remaining capital campaign, as well as volunteers able to provide help in various areas like marketing or those with curating experience.
“Even security guards, we’ll take them all,” Chambers said. “We need the whole gamut of Richmond to support us.”