Tuesday, 13 November 2012

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 Amazon.com) 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.   

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