Clinton Church Restoration seeks proposals for interpretive planning and exhibit design services

Clinton Church Restoration has issued a Request for Proposal for Interpretive Planning and Exhibit Design Services for the African American Heritage Site and Cultural Center it is developing at Great Barrington’s historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church. The selected firm will work with the nonprofit and its design team, led by Mario Gooden of Huff + Gooden Architects, to develop a comprehensive interpretive plan for the site, design and develop the center’s exhibits and interpretive elements, and oversee all aspects of fabrication and installation.

“We invite inquiries from experienced interpretive planning and exhibit design firms,” said Beth Carlson, board member and chair of Clinton Church Restoration’s Planning and Interpretation Committee. “This is an exciting opportunity to shape not only the stories we tell at this historic site but the visitor experience.” Carlson noted that the announcement is being sent to a list of recommended firms and that women- and minority-owned firms are encouraged to submit proposals. Interested parties who have not received the announcement may contact the nonprofit by emailing admin [at] clintonchurchrestoration [dot] org.

Dedicated in 1887, the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church is distinguished by its connection with Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois, co-founder of the NAACP and one of the country’s most influential scholars and civil rights leaders. The shingle-style church is also significant for its association with the religious and cultural heritage of African Americans in rural New England, and as a distinctive example of 19th-century vernacular church architecture. The church, vacant since 2014, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and part of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail. In 2018, Preservation Massachusetts named it one of Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Places.

Clinton Church Restoration, which purchased the property in 2017, seeks to create a unique site of national significance that interprets the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, celebrates the Berkshires’ rich African American heritage, and honors the history of the church and the work of its first female pastor, the Rev. Esther Dozier. The project is part of a growing movement to preserve African American historic places around the country and recently received planning grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Fund, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund; and the Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick Trust.

Additional funding for the project is being provided by an African American Civil Rights Grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area; an emergency, matching grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund through the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Francis Galvin, Chairman; the Citizens of Great Barrington through the Community Preservation Act.