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.     

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