Is the Frazier History Museum on a roll, or what?

Though it struggled early in its history to draw crowds, earlier this month, the finale of the Frazier’s Princess Diana exhibit sold out, with 2,400 people turning out for the final day.

Also last month, executives at the museum – founded and funded by late Brown-Forman heir Owsley Frazier – announced they’re buying two buildings next to the museum at 829 W. Main St. along museum row for a future expansion.

Now, starting February 2, the Frazier is debuting ” the most powerful and important exhibitions it has ever assembled.

“Spirits of the Passage: The Story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade” exploring the incomprehensibly brutal transatlantic slave trade will include 150 historical objects covering more than 350 years, according to a news release. Most of the artifacts are from the famous Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West.

The late underwater explorer was best known for his discovery of the Atocha, one of greatest treasure ships ever found.

From the release:

The 4,000 sq. ft. exhibition, on display through June 16, 2013, is in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the turning point it represented for thousands of enslaved people at a pivotal point in the American Civil War. It’s the first exhibition of its kind to examine the entire history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade from the 16th through 19th centuries, while also presenting the most up-to-date research and discoveries to the public. These include the latest marine archaeological discoveries, new research on key African societies and an exploration of the slave trade’s modern day legacies.

Produced by the Frazier Museum in partnership with the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Fla., “Spirits of the Passage” allows guests to see authentic artifacts from the wreck of an actual slave ship, such as restraints, tools, plates and trade goods, as well as dozens of other objects from West African societies that show the uniqueness of the individual cultures they represent. These include religious objects, bronze- and beadwork, pottery and jewelry. These compelling artifacts, along with maps, paintings and illustrations, create a provocative picture of this tragic era, while also engendering a sense of pride in the legacy of strength these enslaved people left behind.

“’Spirits of the Passage’ represents a wealth of new scholarship on a topic that often gets reduced to data and charts,” states Frazier Museum Executive Director Madeleine Burnside in the release.

“What’s so rare about this exhibition is how we delve into the details of this haunting world event—with real stories about specific people and coordinating artifacts,” stated Burnside, who is a slave trade historian.

Objects for the exhibition are on loan from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, as well as from the Speed Art Museum, which contributed objects from the Congo, Dahomey and Igbo cultures, according to the release.

“We’ve worked with a distinguished group of scholars from across the country, as well as local interest groups to ensure that we’re doing this vast topic justice on not only an academic level, but a human one as well,” Burnside stated.

“Spirits of the Passage” is included in regular museum admission. Adult admission (15 and older) is $10.50, children (ages 5-14) are $6 and discounts are available for military, seniors and groups of 20 or more. Museum members, teachers and children 4 and under get in free. During the month of February only, the Frazier Museum is participating in Museum Row on Main’s “$5 February” promotion, where residents of Kentucky and Indiana can receive $5 admission just by showing their ID or other proof of residency.

The Frazier History Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more, including a calendar of events and information on planning a school field trip, visit Frazier website here or call 502-753-5663.

About the Frazier History Museum: The Frazier Museum is located at 829 W. Main Street on downtown Louisville’s “Museum Row.” This world-class museum provides a journey through more than 1,000 years of world and American history with ever-changing and interactive exhibits, daily performances by costumed interpreters and engaging special events and programs. The Frazier Museum has the distinction of being the only place in the world outside Great Britain to permanently house and display Royal Armouries artifacts.

About Museum Row on Main: Museum Row on Main (MROM) is a partnership of nine unique Louisville attractions located within a four-block area surrounding historic West Main Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. MROM’s nine partners are: 21c Museum Hotel; Frazier History Museum; Glassworks; Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts; Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft; KentuckyShow!; Kentucky Science Center; Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and Muhammad Ali Center. For more information and links to partner websites, visit the museum row website here.