A new black history museum is under consideration by Fairfax County Park Authority officials who suggest building the facility in Gum Springs, the largest black community in Fairfax County.
Park officials will present a private consulting firm's report on the museum at a public forum at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Saunders B. Moon Community Center in Gum Springs.
Officials said the proposed $2 million project would be the only ethnic museum of its kind in the county.
Gum Springs is located off Richmond Highway two miles north of Mount Vernon and has 2,000 residents, 99 percent of whom are black.
Michael Rierson, the proposed museum's project director, said the county has long overlooked the cultural and historic contributions of its black community.
"There is definitely an immediate need to start preserving black history in Fairfax County," Rierson said. "We're losing a lot of it. People in their 80s and 90s who have a wealth of information in their heads are dying. Building development is causing us to lose archeological sites and the historic character of the community."
About 7 percent of Fairfax County's 650,000 residents are black.
Last year, Rierson said, the park authority received a $30,000 grant from the county's Department of Community and Housing Development to study a black history museum in Gum Springs. The authority then hired Center for History Now, a New Jersey-based consulting firm, to work with county officials and develop the 96-page report. The study will be presented to the park authority's board for a recommendation and then forwarded to the county Board of Supervisors.
The three-phase project, which would be financed by the public and private sector, will take about 10 years to complete. Rierson said Phase 1 would entail setting up a temporary preservation office in Gum Springs' historic Odd Fellows Hall. He said phases 2 and 3 would include building the museum and expanding its programs.
The Gum Springs community was founded in the early 1800s by a freed slave, West Ford, who acquired the land from a nephew of George Washington.