The fourth anniversary of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center was celebrated Wednesday with a happy hour event.
"It's amazing to think that we opened in 2018,” said Ally Sprongr, interim director of Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. “It feels like just yesterday and kind of a long time ago, too. There's so much that has happened in our world and here at the Heritage Center. We've been working on growing our visitation, which has been really exciting with visitors from all over the world."
Attendees at the anniversary event enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, drinks and mingling, and were presented with the impact report for 2018-21 that showcased successes the Heritage Center has achieved so far.
A press release noted, “The Heritage Center offers programming and events year-round as part of its commitment to preserving and promoting the legacy of and bringing visibility to Black history and stories in Niagara Falls. Between 2018 and 2021, nearly 40,000 people visited the Heritage Center. It was also the recipient of a 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award from Tripadvisor and voted one of the 10 best new attractions in the country by USA Today.
Seth Frankel of Studio Tectonic, principal designer of the Heritage Center, attended the event and discussed the motivation of how the center was designed and constructed to showcase Niagara Falls’ vital role as part of the Underground Railroad.
"We are trying to have the visitor be on a journey,” Frankel said. “In fact, the narrative and story of the Underground Railroad is a perfect context for the exhibition experience. So, the goal we are trying to arrive at here is not to educate the public on every aspect of the Underground Railroad and details and motivations as to how they got here, but rather here in Niagara Falls, New York, where they are in their moment on their journey as freedom seekers and where they're trying to go.”
Planning is already underway for the future of the Heritage Center and its mission.
"Over the last four years, we've been in all different phases, and now we're really looking to the future and looking ahead,” Spongr said. “We've got a new energy going here. We're coming off the pandemic and we're really looking to have events and programs and reconnect with people in the museum, outside the museum, in the neighborhoods and in the communities."
More information about the Heritage Center is available on its website.
The mission of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is to reveal authentic stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls and to inspire visitors to recognize modern injustices that stem from slavery and to take action toward an equitable society. The Heritage Center is an experiential museum that offers self-guided tours, facilitated guided tours, school field trips, and numerous public programs throughout the year.