Monday, 19 November 2012

Week 23: All are Welcome

In my eleventh week at MCLM, I trained three more people on the processing of Mayme’s papers, prepared the catalog edit list from the book duplicate project, and worked on my second long distance HistoryMakers evaluation.

On Saturday, Michael, Keith and Jason offered to help me with the processing of Mayme’s papers. Jason is in the sixth grade and he volunteers with his dad, Keith, on Saturdays. Keith has a graduate degree in history and has been helping at the MCLM for several years. Michael is in his 20s, has a mild form of autism and has been inventorying CDs and albums for the past several months. I explained my process to all three of them and then gave individual assignments. Keith helped me to file papers according to the organizational schema. He also made folders for some of the biographical materials that I had identified. Jason helped me to put the Western States Black Research Center correspondence in chronological order. I told him that he was doing better than any other volunteer that I had asked to do it. The others made it way too difficult, trying to separate handwritten letters from typed letters. Jason finished one and a half folders in the 2 hours that he was there. Michael was tasked with sorting the contact cards alphabetically. He finished so quickly, I had him organize a few correspondence folders as well. All three of them did an excellent job and moved the project forward for me.

As soon as we finished compiling the list of duplicates to share with the auction, I had a lot of data to reconcile. Our volunteers noticed a lot of discrepancies and anomalies with the information from the catalog and the reality of the shelf. In some cases, the Library of Congress call numbers would be different for the same book or the same for different books. I understood that the book cataloging project has been going on for several years and not all of the volunteers may have known that the call number should reflect distinctions in publishers and editions of the same title. In cases where the books are indeed the exact same copies, the catalog should read quantity “2” instead of two identical entries in the catalog. I had three volunteers checking the shelves and making notes this week, and compiled all of their notes on one spreadsheet. I do not have the access to make changes to the catalog, but I am hoping to find some time next week to sit down with Cara, share the findings, and discuss the database in more detail. We all have a lot of tasks to complete but I believe that we can integrate this book catalog clean up into our daily workflows.    

Demonstrating why these titles are not true duplicates

The good news is that I currently have a schedule to process my remaining HistoryMakers interviews before the end of the fellowship. The bad news is that I am already behind in the submission of my second one. My second long distance interview is Dr. Ella Mizzell Kelly. She is a social science researcher in the pediatrics department at Howard University. Dr. Kelly is very intelligent and the majority of her interview is about her school experiences and her career. The last thirty minutes is essentially a public service announcement about sexual responsibility as a result of her research on adolescents and the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Kelly cites many of her peers and partner organizations which made me pause and rewind the video often, to pull out the details. When Dr. Kelly talked about the perceived risks that she has taken in her career, she says: “I’m supposed to be smart, I can figure this out, if all else fails, I can always type”. I agreed whole-heartedly and it speaks to the confidence that a quality education can give a person. It has been over a month since I have completed an evaluation, hopefully my pace will pick up in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Week 22: Design an Exhibit?

In my tenth week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum I continued to find interesting documents in Mayme’s papers, prepared two exhibits for Saturday’s events, and spoke with a social media intern.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I spent time, almost exclusively, working on the Mayme Papers. Many of my current projects have pulled me away from the main reason that I was brought to MCLM. I would not be satisfied if May 30, 2013 came around and I was not finished processing Mayme’s papers. I have several volunteers that I have trained for the project and they do a great job, but there is nothing like experiencing the materials for myself. The 400 level series on Mayme’s personal papers continues to be a challenge. Notepads full of scribbles, printed out emails, and advertisements on waxy fax paper are hard to rationalize the preservation of, but we soldier on. On rare occasions, I do come across some fascinating items. This week I found Mayme’s passport, it was stamped exclusively with destinations in Africa. I believe that she took these trips in the late 60’s, early 70’s, I have to do a little more research to determine what was happening in her personal life and career at these times. I also found some photographs of Mayme with Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson, based on their ages and the clothes; it looked like the 1990’s. There is so much that can be done for fundraising and publicity as soon as we have accounted for everything in her collection, and I am anxious to see it through to the end.

On Saturday, we hosted a monthly meeting of LAAWPPI (Los Angeles African American Women in Public Policy Institute) as well as a book signing for Mr. Charles Reese’s book, “A Soul on Fire”. To demonstrate our connection to each group, I gathered materials to do a glass case exhibit for each. For the LAAAWPPI women’s group I collected items from the Diane Watson collection, and photographs of African American female politicians like, Susan Rice, Maxine Waters and Barbara Jordan. I also found a few biographies on Shirley Chisholm and a painting by Synthia St. James in tribute to Diane Watson. I found a Jet and an Ebony magazine that featured Yvonne Braithwaite Burke on the covers, a Los Angeles politician who was a strong advocate for Mayme Clayton’s collection. Mr. Reese’s book is actually a screenplay that chronicles James Baldwin’s life on the day before he met with Sen. Robert Kennedy to discuss the increasingly violent tension between blacks and whites in the country in 1963. Mr. Reese had a dramatic reading from his book, engaged in a discussion with actress CCH Pounder, and answered questions from the audience. Baldwin’s meeting with the senator in 1963 included his friends, Lena Horne and Lorraine Hansberry. I focused on Baldwin, Hansberry and Horne as I gathered materials for the case. I found an original copy of the “Raisin in the Sun” playbill, starring Sidney Poitier. I also brought out some pages from the Lena Horne scrapbook. I included Baldwin’s books, The Fire Next Time, and Go Tell it on the Mountain for the exhibit. Everything had to be put together so quickly, I did not get the chance to ask questions or experiment with display ideas. From the printing of labels to the placement of items, and the lifting of the giant glass case, I could use much more experience in the aesthetic of exhibit creation.     

I know that social media programs are important for archives and a component of the fellowship, but I have not had much time to explore the possibilities. I was very grateful to get a call from Khristal, a student from UC-Irvine who has an interest in volunteering for MCLM as a social media specialist. Khristal dropped in on Saturday and we talked for about an hour. She is from Chicago and familiar with The HistoryMakers. She is currently applying for graduate school in information resources or special collections, her top choices include Kent State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has worked on social media projects for the African American Library and Museum within the Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA and was familiar with the social media programs at the Schomberg in New York and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, NC. She understood the challenges that face culturally based non-profit organizations and how it is hard to maintain outreach strategies when the staff is revolving and the money is not stable. She recommended that I check with Larry to see what kinds of information he would like to broadcast and how many resources he was willing to dedicate towards the initiative. As soon as we had a rough sketch, she could help us fill in the blanks and share the workload. We anticipated that we might be able to move forward with something by January. Social media feels like a blank slate for the packaging of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum and I am looking forward to coming up with some creative ways to showcase the collection.     

Professional Development Call: Ms. Andrea Jackson

Professional Development Call: October 18, 2012
Atlanta University Center - Atlanta, GA

We started the call with each fellow discussing our academic backgrounds, current projects and career trajectory. Andrea Jackson who is the director of the archives at the Atlanta University Center told us more about her background. Ms. Jackson attended Spelman University and earned her B.A. in History with a minor in Sociology. She discovered an interest in archives after participating in a National Museum Fellowship. She went on to earn her M.A. in U.S. history with a certificate in Archival Management and Historical Editing from NYU.

Atlanta University Center
The Atlanta University Center is a collaborative institution shared by Morehouse, Spelman, Clark-Atlanta, and Morris Brown Universities. One of the highlights of the special collection at Morehouse is the Martin Luther King Jr., papers which are valued at 32 million dollars. Another impressive collection at the AUC is the Maynard Jackson mayoral papers. Mr. Jackson was the first African American mayor of Atlanta and he served for three terms. AUC hired a consultant to use materials from the collection to create a traveling exhibit on Maynard Jackson’s career. The Atlanta University Center sponsored the TuPac conference in Atlanta, earlier this year.

Karen Jefferson
Ms. Jackson worked as a project archivist at Fisk University before joining the staff of the Atlanta University Center as a curator. One of Ms. Jackson’s mentors is Karen Jefferson who was recently appointed to the NHPRC by President Obama, after 20 years in the field of archives. When Mrs. Jefferson resigned from her position at the AUC, Ms. Jackson stepped in as the head of archives. One drawback of being in an administrator position is that she is not able to process collections anymore. The majority of Ms. Jackson’s time is spent managing other people and working with donors.

Professional Development
Ms. Jackson’s presentation about the HBCU alliance was her first time as a presenter at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting. She is currently serving as the archivist for the Georgia State Archivist group, her term ends in November of this year. Ms. Jackson has also been the editor of the Archives and Archivists of Color Roundtable newsletter. Ms. Jackson encouraged the fellows to join SAA regional groups and take leadership roles in those organizations. In many cases archivists are alone in our institutions, professional organizations can be a great place to build camaraderie and grow our skill sets.

Week 21: Protest Songs

In my ninth week at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, I collaborated on a photograph survey with Mayme’s papers, appraised pre-1945 duplicate books, and helped with a teacher training program.

One of our volunteers, Greta, is a well-trained professional photographer. She recently graduated from a library science program at UCLA, and is volunteering at MCLM to gather experience while looking for a job in archives. The majority of the photographs at MCLM were processed by Alyss last year. However, I discovered several boxes of 4x6 color photos, 8x10 black and whites photos, and 35 mm slides among Mayme’s papers. I asked Greta if she would asses them and report her findings back to me. Greta did an excellent job identifying the content of the images and making recommendations for their safe keeping. I noted the supplies that she would need and put together a request sheet with product numbers and prices from the Gaylord catalog, for Larry to review. I’m not sure if we will be getting these supplies immediately, but when the money comes through we will be prepared to move forward with that piece of the project.

The first project that the staff of the MCLM took on, back in 2007, was the cataloging of Mayme’s books. For five years, volunteers have been looking up books on the Library of Congress’ website, copy cataloging the records into our database, and shelving the titles according to the LOC call number. In our collection development policy, any book that we have at least 2 copies of shall be labeled a duplicate and could be de-accessioned. We have a room full of at least 75 boxes of books that are considered duplicates and in light of our pending move, we are discussing de-accession. There are several auction houses in Los Angeles that are interested in rare books that were published before 1945. It was my job to identify these titles among our duplicates, noting their condition, and potential value (according to and share with the executive director. Our collection policy also states that any plans for deaccession must be approved by the collection advisory board and the MCLM board of directors. I have been sharing the plan and seeking advice from the collection advisory board throughout the week, and Larry will be talking with the board of directors on November 12.  Lastly, I had to check the shelves to verify that there were two copies of each title. I have had a lot of help from volunteers and Cara to move this project along. At the end of the emails, spreadsheet sorts, and shelf checking, we have identified 104 books valued at approximately $17,000.

On Saturday, MCLM welcomed a group of 30 eleventh grade and 30 eighth grade history teachers from Los Angeles Unified School District to learn more about using primary source documents in their instruction. The teachers used our courtroom spaces to receive lectures from history professors and experts in the district’s mandates for history instruction. For the last hour and a half, Cara, Larry and I gave tours and allowed the teachers to interact with our relevant primary source documents. The day before we had pulled our slave documents, historic newspapers, photographs, pamphlets, books, and ephemera related to eighth and eleventh grade mandates. There were essentially three stations that we rotated the groups through; the great room held all of the artifacts, the general museum spaces, and the jail. You can imagine my surprise when Larry informed tone-deaf Chaitra, that she would be leading the group in the singing of civil rights protest songs in the jail. I had the CD, and lyric sheets for everyone in the group, and I think that they had a good time with it. “Calypso Freedom” had the melody of “Day-O” by Harry Belafonte, and “Get your Rights, Jack” was in the style of Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack”. We also sang along to Pete Seeger’s version of “We shall Overcome”. It would have been easy for us to let them use our space and give out pamphlets about the museum, but the extra effort helped them to see how we could use the space and our collection to supplement their instruction.