African American Museum hit by tornado then catches fire, items being salvaged

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The tornadoes of December 11th have left much of Bowling Green in shambles, and many have lost precious items or memorabilia.

The African American Museum caught fire just one and a half weeks after having been hit by the December 11th tornado and is suffering the loss of several one-of-a-kind documents and other items.

Some of what the tornado didn’t destroy, the fire damaged, and some of what the fire didn’t damage, the water from the firetrucks ruined, but still many items were salvaged.

Now, chair of the board of trustees John Hardin is working with others in the community to salvage and restore many of the damaged pieces.

The recovered items were brought to WKU Supply Services Building by WKU facilities staff but they were laid out and saved by staff from the WKU KY Museum and Library.

As with many BG persons, they all volunteered to do this during their Christmas holidays.

The African American Museum is a 501-c-3 non profit organization using the WKU building.

“Many of the artifacts that were destroyed were one of a kind we have some metals of some of the various war veterans. We had one room devoted to African-American veterans in all of the wars. Some of that material was destroyed but we’ve kept some of it, some of the uniforms, some of the other materials. A lot of it was printed material and we are hoping to get copies of that. We’re hoping to recover and restore some of the printed materials,” said Hardin.

He says he is thankful for all the help he has received in working to salvage the artifacts inside and is thankful no one was inside during the tornado or the fire.

“It’s going to take a while to recover but we just have to be patient. We have to raise some funds, get our building back in shape. Also, it’s been very useful, western staff, particularly facilities, has been very helpful to do what’s necessary to make the museum come back to life,” said Hardin.

But the museum will open again.

“We are working to make sure that in the future when the building is restored, we could open back up and have the entire community come back and visit us,” said Hardin.

The date of the re-opening is unknown at this time as the museum works to repair the building.

The cause of the fire has not officially been determined at this time.