Aretha Franklin: ‘Think’ exhibit celebrates the life and legacy of the Queen of Soul

The exhibit will open this week and is scheduled to run until Jan. 21, 2019.

Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin performs at The Fox Theatre on March 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for The Fox Theatre)


An estate-approved exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit features a tribute to Aretha Franklin’s life and legacy that aims to be a “much longer expression” of the celebrated music icon.

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“Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul” will open this week and will run until Jan. 21, 2019. The museum previously hosted Franklin’s public viewing following her death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.

“This is an opportunity for people to come back and engage, reminisce and reflect,” Wright museum board member Kelly Major Green told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s the beginning of a much longer expression of who Aretha is.”

As noted by the New York Post’s Pagesix, the exhibit will feature wardrobe, shoes, video displays and photos from throughout Franklin’s career, including a copy of the first-ever recording Franklin released, a 1956 vinyl of “Never Grow Old” by “Aretha Franklin, Daughter of Rev. C.L. Franklin.” Additionally, the “red, lace-trimmed ruffled suit and crimson satin pumps” that she wore at the public viewing will display in the exhibit.

“My aunt used to always talk about having a Franklin family museum,” Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, told The Associated Press. “That’s not on the immediate horizon, but I thought this would be a good start to it.”

The exhibit is designed to change and offer surprises during its four-month tenure at the museum. Curators will reportedly rotate items in and out of display to “reflect the same ever-changing dynamics that marked the singer’s own life,” the Detroit Free Press writes.

“This mirrors the way she was – keep on adding things to a collection, giving people something different to look forward to – just goes along with who she was as a person,” Owens said. “She just always wanted to change, keep herself relevant.”

According to The Detroit News, for the current and future exhibit, the museum is working with the Franklin family to create a visually arresting piece that truly reflects the impact of the singer’s  life.

“Aretha was obviously important to the world and important to Detroit,” said Green. “We want to be able to express that appropriate and commensurate with the legacy that it is.”

Franklin’s niece believes the public’s response to the exhibits can help the family determine if a permanent museum “is a viable idea.”

“It’s just really good to see my aunt’s dream come to fruition,” Owens said.

The Franklin estate is eyeing a long-term exhibit housed at an undetermined location in 2020.

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