Saturday, 29 December 2012

Week 27: A hallway full of Black Power

In my 15th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I participated in a professional development call with staff members from the Virginia Historical Society, put the final touches on my new processing space in the small courtroom, and mapped out some ideas for the “Listen, Whitey” exhibit.

On Tuesday, I joined a conference call with my fellow fellows to listen as Dr. Lauranett Lee and Paige Newman discussed their work at the Virginia Historical Society. They spent most of the call describing their database of slave names, “Unknown No Longer” and which factors they considered in its creation. Dr. Lee talked about the outreach opportunities that the project has enabled. She believes that descendants of slaves and slave owners will better understand the circumstances of slavery with the data that they have collected. The Virginia Historical Society has also improved its relationships with other Virginia libraries and historical societies through collaborations with the Unknown No Longer Database. Many genealogists utilize the resources at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum and my knowledge of this database will increase my ability to help them with their research.

The small courtroom in the museum has officially been taken over by the Mayme A. Clayton Papers. All of the boxes are set up on tables for easy filing. There are no giant piles of unsorted materials in any of the corners. The series are physically separated in space with chairs so that five people can potentially work at the same time. I have my laptop computer set up near the makeshift sorting tables so that I can also work on blogs and evaluation summaries in between the processing of the papers. I am closer to the museum entrance so I can easily move to the reception area to answer phones or greet visitors. The new space is lovely, and I am hoping to recruit some extra volunteers in January to keep moving the project along.  

A few weeks ago, Larry explained that we would need to change the permanent exhibits throughout the museum. We plan to rotate the materials in the room which displays the range of items that can be found at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum. The “great” room which currently houses the art of local artist, Ben Caldwell will be replaced by our collection of Jacob Lawrence artwork. The hallway that currently houses the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Los Angeles photographs, the riots in Watts photographs, the community paintings, and several movie posters, will be removed to make way for the “Listen, Whitey” exhibit. I have been selected to design and implement the “Listen, Whitey” exhibit which is centered on a same titled book by Pat Thomas that discusses the black power albums which were recorded between 1965 and 1975. Larry’s idea is to locate the albums that are referenced in the book and creatively display them with supplemental materials from the collection, listening stations, looping videos and text panels which tell the story of what these artists were trying to express. The concept is very straightforward, and now I am trying to work out the thousands of details that flow from this simple concept. I am reading the book and writing down as many questions as I can as the ideas come to me. This is an amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to putting together an exciting exhibit.

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