Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Week 16: Sparks are Flying

This week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I contributed to my first program for children, learned about Mayme’s film collection and was inspired to fully incorporate volunteers into the processing of Mayme’s papers. I also participated in an engaging professional development call with Carnegie Museum of Art regarding their Charles "Teenie" Harris photograph collection.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles chapter of Jack and Jill was hosting a program on the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. The focus of the commemoration was one of the victims, 14 year old Carole Robertson, who was also a Jack and Jill member. The kids and their parents gathered in our multi-purpose room and shared their thoughts, research or creative outputs regarding the incident. There were around 13 children, aged 3 to 16, and around 15 adults present for the program. The program organizers set aside an hour for the museum staff to talk with the group. Cara decided that it would nice to exhibit some of the artifacts related to the bombing and then have the kids scrapbook about what they had learned and their reactions to the day. Earlier in the week, Cara had pulled the relevant Jet, Ebony, and Pittsburgh Courier magazines, as well as some Ku Klux Klan pamphlets and sheet music. She placed them plastic sleeves and they were exhibited throughout the program. Cara also gathered the arts and crafts supplies that the children would be using. I was responsible for scanning articles and photographs which were to be copied and included in the scrapbooks. I introduced myself and the project to the group and, along with Cara, helped the kids think about what pictures and words they could include in their scrapbook. Most of the children were too young to really grasp the significance of the Civil Rights Movement, but they seemed to identify “anger” at that those men who killed children, “sadness” that Carole was not living anymore and “happy” that Barack and Michelle are in the White House. Hopefully they will fill in the gaps as they get older. 

After the Jack and Jill group cleared out of the building, we had to make room for a film screening in the large courtroom. The “film” was actually a 90 minute compilation of Mayme’s musical shorts from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Although my workday was over, I stuck around and watched. I am glad that I did, the performances were amazing. Nat King Cole singing “is you is or is you ain’t my baby”, Pearl Bailey swinging to “rhythm of the drums”, Fats Waller on the piano, serenading his “honeysuckle rose”. There were singing clips from Dinah Washington, Della Reese, and Cab Calloway. My favorite was the tap dancing on table tops clip from a group called Tip, Tap and Toe. At the end of the screening, a jazz and film historian, Mark Cantor, explained the circumstances and traditions that surrounded these types of recordings. Mr. Cantor knew Dr. Clayton and his description of their interactions gave me some insight into her collection. Mayme had three objectives, acquisition was her highest priority, followed by preservation and organization was a distant third. She always assumed that someone was going to have to sift through her materials and establish an order. Mr. Cantor shared many details about the purpose of these shorts and the way that black talent was treated in those days, it was fascinating. Then he starts taking questions from the audience, and there was not an artist, a song, or a recording year that stumped him, he was a jazz music encyclopedia. Overall, the event was entertaining and informative and I’m looking forward to the next one.

At our staff meeting earlier this week, Larry had asked me about some timelines for finishing the project. I gave him data based on me making every single folder, which I assumed is what he meant when he said process the collection, three weeks ago. It turns out that he wants me to utilize the volunteers and manage the processing of the collection. Earlier in the week, I tried to explain my process to one volunteer and she was not getting it. I went back to the drawing board put together a Power Point that will explain what I need from volunteers in the context of the archival processing. I plan to present my plan to Larry this week, in order to recruit volunteers at the next all volunteer meeting in October. I have spoken to a few other volunteers that are eager to help with new projects, so hopefully there will be more just like that. I know that I will be in the trenches with them, making the appraisal and arrangement decisions as well as checking their work, but we can move so much faster as a group. I did not think that I would get supervisory experience within this fellowship, but I am very excited about stepping up to the challenge.   

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