By Selean Holmes
The Harriet Group – African American
History Art & Culture Consulting
Since its inception, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has supported social justice through its mission. Numerous exhibitions brought this topic to light, and the center has garnered many partners including the US Department of State and International Justice Mission. More than 1.3 million people have visited this award-winning museum learning from stories of courage, cooperation and perseverance. Trudy L. Gaba joins the staff as the first Social Justice Curator. In tandem with Curator Stephanie M. Lampkin, PhD., hired two years ago, and Katie Stockdale, Exhibit Content Developer, this dynamic trio will work on reinstallation of exhibitions for a total refresh of its many offerings.
Trudy L. Gaba hails from a lineage of achievers who believed in social change. She was born in Georgia and raised in Virginia, by her father, a Liberian American minister and mother, an educator and artist.
Her maternal grandfather, Benjamin Johnson Anderson was an abolitionist and minister who presided over Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, a church committed to Christian education and social justice. Reverand Anderson was the first to bring integrated housing to the area. In the 1950’s his wife, Clara Louise Gaillard-Anderson, was a rare minority hire working in the Science Department at Princeton University as a microscopist (a scientist specializing in research with the use of microscopes).
After Gaba received a Bachelor’s in English from Virginia Polytechnic and State University, her journey extended across the pond to the United Kingdom. She lived in Scotland, where she earned a Master of Science in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from The University of Edinburgh. Gaba also worked as a Digital Content Writer for the National Galleries of Scotland highlighting their permanent collection of High Renaissance art. This self-driven and dedicated museum professional honed her curatorial skills in the areas of South Asian art, Islamic art and Antiquities at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Gaba also curated an exhibition of Kara Walker’s work, a renowned African American painter and installation artist. She also interned at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia where she updated provenance records for appraisal and conducted research on the permanent collection of South Asian art.
“Within my curatorial practice, I endeavor to advance projects that uplift and amplify the perspectives and experiences of those who find themselves on the periphery, marginalized by race, gender, and class domination. It is my mission to engage the community and create spaces where people can redeem and reclaim the past, legacies of pain, suffering, triumph, and joy in ways that can transform our present reality, says Gaba. She understands the crucial role institutions like the National Underground Railroad Freedom play in helping communities heal and prosper. Gaba espouses that, “As a Black woman, my values align with the museum’s vision of working to recover and reclaim lost or silent voices, so that we can all collectively reconcile, reunite, and renew.” In her spare time, she cares for her fur baby cat, dabbles in craft-making and is an avid plant enthusiast.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on The Banks at 50 E. Freedom Way is open Wed-Sun 10-5pm. Visit freedomcenter.org for more information.