At the Crossroads of Equal Rights
By Billye Chabot, Executive Director, Seward House Museum
Perhaps to an outside observer, Auburn, New York would seem an unlikely setting for an Equal Rights Heritage Center. But if you look closer, the history that happened here puts Auburn at the crossroads of equal rights and at the epicenter of several defining moments in the continuing struggle for social reform.
Opening at the end of October, the Equal Rights Heritage Center is owned and operated by the City of Auburn. The Center will promote heritage tourism and will highlight the themes of Equal Rights and the role of New York State from a historical perspective. Exhibitions will feature the abolitionist movement, the fight for social justice and human rights including rights for women, refugees, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community. It will serve as a visitor information center, house a Taste New York Market, and provide offices for our tourism and downtown partners. Additionally, the Center will allow for reflection on the legacy of passionate concern for the equality of all human beings and encourage dialogue on a variety of topics fundamental to the theme of equal rights.
“This is a downtown revitalization project for our city designed to support and boost our historic and cultural sites locally and regionally," Mayor Michael Quill said. "We thank the Governor and our state legislators for their support. We look forward to working in partnership with the Auburn BID, the Cayuga County Office of Tourism and all our historic and cultural sites to make this project a success."
Since Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul’s public announcement of the Equal Rights Heritage Center in September 2017, the Seward House Museum has worked with our community partners to assist us in thinking strategically about the many ways the Center will impact the Museum.
With the thread of equal rights woven throughout the narrative of the interpretation of the Seward Family, we now have an additional opportunity to explore, ask questions, dig deeper, and engage audiences while navigating the tensions of our shared history. This may lead to the development of emerging perspectives and programming which can encourage new ways of considering the past. For example, questions like, who gets to participate, and who has the right to be a citizen, are still relevant today and connect our history to a national narrative.
The Equal Rights Heritage Center will certainly add to the Seward experience as visitors move from the Center to the Seward House and gardens, and on to Seward Park, creating a type of heritage campus. The natural partnership between the Seward House Museum and the Center will provide a unique experience to bring our stories alive in the most compelling of ways. We look forward to the Center’s opening and dedication in this fall.
Is the building open yet? Click here to view the live webcam and track the progress!