The architectural form centers the untold stories of enslaved African Americans—serving as a historical touchstone for generations to come.
After more than 20 years of planning, The IAAM is sited at Gadsden’s Wharf overlooking Charleston Harbor, the point of disembarkation for nearly half the Africans enslaved and shipped to the United States during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Designed For Remembrance
The design team envisioned the entry sequence as both a destination and transitional space between the landscape and exhibition. Raised 13 feet above the ground on a double row of concrete columns, the single story museum makes way for a plaza of remembrance beneath the floating structure.
The museum and its grounds serve as an educational site, a groundbreaking resource for the study and advancement of African American genealogy, and a memorial honoring the slaves and their descendants who passed through the very same space.
A Place Where History Unfolds
Movement through the museum represents the journey from the origins of Africa across the Atlantic Ocean and to and through America, tracing the paths and patterns that enslaved Africans, and ultimately African Americans, made for themselves.
The west side features a chronological, interactive gallery called American Journeys, juxtaposed with media related to the legacies of slavery and current movements around racial equality and social justice. The center for genealogy is a place where visitors can get guided help tracking their family genealogy.
Furniture With a Story
Conceptualized by African American designers at Moody Nolan, a collection of custom benches represents their ancestral journey—from enslavement to reclaiming cultural traditions—using materiality and shape to tell an evocative story.
The finished design is restrained, inspired by the boats that carried people across the ocean. The rectangular box looks out over the water, hovering on pillars above the ground to honor the now-buried history of the wharf.