The SEEK MUSEUMS are comprised of 6 historic buildings that have been restored to tell the unique and buried stories beginning with the arrival of Revolutionary War Major Richard Bibb and the people enslaved by him in Russellville, Ky. Bibb eventually emancipated nearly 100 enslaved people, and the museums tell the stories of their struggles for equality and justice over the last two centuries.
Two separate but related museum sites are available for group or individual tours.
SEEK MUSEUM at The Bibb House tells the stories of 3 generations of enslavement that lasted until the death of Major Richard Bibb in 1839 when he freed his remaining slaves, followed by their struggles for equality in an area of legalized slavery until the conclusion of the Civil War and the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868. This museum is located at Bibb's 1817 urban plantation that includes his townhouse and the adjacent kitchen/laundry work building, and it is one of the few public museums in America that tells the stories of both the slavery and the emancipations that occurred at the site of the museum.
SEEK MUSEUM in The Bottom is located in a National Register Historic District that was settled primarily by newly freed persons after the Civil War and became a vibrant residential and commercial neighborhood. Four historic buildings contain exhibits that highlight the Civil War veterans and other freed persons who settled in this district and their struggles and accomplishments amidst a world of legalized segregation and racial discrimination; the terror of mob violence and lynchings that assaulted their goals of equality; and the continuing struggles for civil rights and justice over the last 150 years.
THE STORIES BEGIN
THE SEEK MUSEUM
AT THE BIBB HOUSE
Struggles for Emancipation and Equality
SLAVERY IN KENTUCKY
THE BIBB HOUSE
Richard Bibb came to Kentucky after the state's government had adopted a Constitution that legalized and protected slavery. He had inherited slaves and was the second largest slaveholder in his home county in Virginia, and he brought those enslaved people with him when he came to Kentucky and eventually settled in the western frontier of Logan County. The lives of Major Bibb and his family and the lives of the enslaved people will be explored and told from within the walls of their home and workplaces.
and the COLONIZATION MOVEMENT
Richard Bibb had been exposed to anti-slavery sentiment in central Virginia, and he and his son had a strong relationship with Henry Clay, who was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society. In 1832, Bibb agreed to emancipate 31 people upon the condition that they would be sent to Liberia by the ACS, and this was the largest number of people sent by any Kentuckian. The Museum addresses the struggles of these individuals and the role of the ACS in the anti-slavery movement.
At Bibb's death in 1839, he emancipated the 65 people that were still enslaved by him and provided financial assets to them. Two communities (Upper and Lower Bibbtowns) were settled in Logan County by the freed people. Their struggles for real "freedom" and for some sort of equality took place in a world where slavery was still legal and racial discrimination was the norm. The legal ownership of the land that they had inherited was not given to the freed people until the 1870s.
AND THE STORIES CONTINUE
THE SEEK MUSEUM
IN THE BOTTOM
Struggles for Equality
THE CULTURAL HERITAGE
OF THE BOTTOM
The Bottom is a National Register Historic District that was the home of many formerly enslaved people after the Civil War. Several veterans of the U.S.Colored Troops used their pensions to pay for their homes, and other residents were people who got their freedom prior to the War. The museum exhibits are displayed in the 1810 Morton-Kimbrough House, the 1880 Cooksey House, the 1890 Orndorff-Townsend House and the 1945 Payne-Dunnigan House where the cultural history of this area and the struggles and achievements of its residents are told.
LEGAL SEGREGATION AND MOB VIOLENCE
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the political control of Logan County returned to ex-Confederates. Segregation became the law of the land, and race based violence (including the lynching of 12 people in the county) by the Night Riders and others created terror and fear of the lawless mobs. While the Bottom was developing as a commercial and residential hub for the freed blacks in the segregated society, their struggles for equality began and continued amidst the legal obstacles and the threats of violence.
STRUGGLES FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
The struggles for equality and justice were present from the early days of the Bottom, and the stories of these struggles and the victories that were achieved are celebrated in the museum. One of the most notable heroes is Alice Allison Dunnigan, a Logan County native who became the first female, African American to be admitted to the White House and Congressional Press Corps. A bronze statue of her has been installed on the museum grounds in the center of a new park dedicated to the struggles for civil rights.
TOURS, PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
* The bronze statue of Alice Allison Dunnigan is now on display in the new park dedicated to the struggles for civil rights adjacent to the Payne-Dunnigan house on East 6th Street, and a new exhibit about Ms. Dunnigan's achievements has been installed.
* The second in-person reunion of the descendants of the people enslaved by Richard Bibb and the descendants of Major Bibb is scheduled for Saturday, September 17th. Events include the premier of the documentary, "Invented Before You Were Born" that addresses this history and the issues connected to it. All descendants are invited and encouraged to attend.
Tours of either or both museum sites are available Wednesday - Saturday: 10 am - 4pm, with prior email or phone scheduling required. Group Tours (including curriculum based school tours) are available by appointment, with reduced fees for groups of 10 or more.