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Christiansburg Institute Inc. continues to grow; newly remodeled museum and internships underway

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Christiansburg Institute was a school for African Americans from 1866 until 1966.

100 years later, it’s an organization with a vast alumni base.

Now, many of the school’s artifacts and history are being collected in a newly remodeled museum.

“We tried to tell the hard stories, but we also balance it with the incredible joy and community that encompassed C.I.,” said Jenny Nehrt, a curator at Christiansburg Institute Museum and Archives.

Their newly-redesigned museum is now filled with more artifacts and documents from the school’s long history.

“It’s a place for people to come and gather and just recollect and remember their history, and it’s also a place for people who maybe don’t know anything about Christiansburg Institute to come and learn more,” said Nehrt.

The museum includes more interactive exhibits for learners of all ages.

“The lockers, for example, they’re an interactive exhibit where each locker is assigned to alumni and it discusses their time at CI, but also how their education impacted their lives outward and how they themselves influenced their communities. So when you open a locker it’s filled with items that are not original to the school, but that are representative of their time at school,” said Nehrt.

“One of the ones that are up there is Miss Amanda DeHart, who was one of my teachers at Christiansburg Institute, and so I am amazed at the things that are in there.” said Debbie Sherman-Lee, a board member of Christiansburg Institute, Inc.

Chris Sanchez, the executive director of C.I. and newly-appointed member of Virginia’s African American History Board, says this is a season of growth.

“We now have this book in all schools across the school system. And in every public library, so that in and of itself, that awareness, that recognition of getting African American educational resources into our public spaces in schools and libraries, is extremely empowering for our team,” said Chris Sanchez, executive director of Christiansburg Institute, Inc.

“I wanted to get involved to help get the Edgar A. Long building restored. A lot of our elders would like to see that. And I would also like to see that,” said Sherman-Lee.

And they’re in the right direction—the organization plans to reveal the new master site plan for the former C.I. campus to advance their campaign work and get the community involved.

“We’re looking here in Montgomery County-- like I, this is where it’s at,” said Sanchez.

The museum is also offering internships and work-study programs for high school and college students.

You can learn more by contacting C.I. on their website.

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