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College of Charleston's Avery Center to reopen after 2 years, $2.3 million renovation

Avery Center

The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture on Bull Street. College of Charleston/Provided

The College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture will reopen to the public Wednesday after a two-year, $2.3 million renovation. 

The center's 153-year-old building originally housed the Avery Normal Institute, the first accredited secondary school for African Americans in Charleston, said Daron-Lee Calhoun II, Avery’s facilities manager and director of public programming and outreach. 

Today, the center serves as a museum and archival space that focuses on documenting and preserving African American history and culture.

The Avery was originally scheduled to reopen in 2018 after what was supposed to be a six-month renovation, Calhoun said, but the project faced construction delays and funding hurdles. 

"I'm just thankful for the community for being patient. There are many people who didn't believe we were going to open back up, with all the delays," Calhoun said. "But I’d rather them have done it right, as opposed to doing a rushed job and having to do another renovation in a couple of years."

Avery Center artifact

A book signed by Langston Hughes on display inside the renovated Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. Mike Ledford/College of Charleston/Provided

The reopening kicks off with an open house from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at 125 Bull St. Guided tours will resume Thursday, Calhoun said. 

The center is home to permanent exhibits highlighting African American culture and history, but also houses thousands of historical documents and artifacts, including photographs, microfilm and manuscript collections available for researchers. 

"We had to grow because we were busting at the seams, and we ended up getting new shelving and increasing our capacity to where we can bring in more collections that we can preserve," Calhoun said. 

The renovations included repairs of leaks, better temperature control and improved storage, among other things. 

The center is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is free to the public. Guided tours are available at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

To mark its reopening, the center will also host a series of new exhibits beginning Wednesday. 

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Contact Jenna Schiferl at 843-937-5764. Follow her on Twitter at @jennaschif. 

Jenna Schiferl is a Columbia native and a reporter at The Post and Courier. She has previously worked as an editor at Garnet & Black Magazine.

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