Sunday, 13 January 2013

Week 31: ABOUT FACE!

In my 19th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I worked with Richard Pryor photographs, continued planning for the exhibit, and re-focused my work at the museum.

Our work with the Richard Pryor documentary has given me some hands on exposure to what it means to be an archive. I find myself asking how valuable is our place as a conduit between the creators and the consumers of information. On a philosophical level, I would love for everyone in the world of museums, libraries and archives to earn competitive wages and provide information to the masses for free. Of course this is not the case, my colleagues struggle to find gainful employment in our field and access to information often goes to the highest bidder. Our dealings with the documentary are two fold so far. There are images in our photograph collection that we own the rights to, and we are negotiating a licensing agreement with the producers. Then there are images and articles from Jet and Ebony magazine that they want to source from us. In addition to their licensing fees, how much would Johnson Publishing Company charge to have one of their employees find  every Richard Pryor article or image from 1970 until 1982, and scan it at 1200 dpi? Does this count as research? What is the fee schedule for this type of service? MCLM makes many of these decisions on a case by case basis and it is not up to the archivist, necessarily. I see monetary value in the human resource that located the magazines and made the large file scans, as well as the simple existence of a local source that has what they are looking for. I don’t think many people work in archives for the money, but these are critical items to get a hold over as an independent research institution without an endowment or a consistent funding source.

Albums from Lloyd Clayton's extensive vinyl collection

My dalliance in the world of exhibit planning continues. Over the break I had put together some section ideas for the “Listen, Whitey” exhibit based on the space, the book and my work with Lloyd’s record collection. I even gave the new exhibit a name, “Audio Assault”. When Larry and I sat down to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the initial proposal, he encouraged me to give the idea of black power more of a context, draft a narrative that would walk people through the installation, and identify the main learning outcomes. I spent a great deal of time this week considering his feedback and working on this narrative. Larry also shared with me the planning documents from the museum’s last major exhibition, “Get on Board” detailing the eleven young Freedom Riders who rode a bus from Los Angeles to Houston in attempts to de-segregate the interstate traveling facilities. Two things about these documents encouraged me. One was that the exhibit focused on those young people, many who were still alive and engaged with the museum for the exhibit. This part of the Civil Rights story could best be told in Los Angeles and was very relevant to the community here. The second is that those documents were very similar to the ones that I have been working on for “Audio Assault”. The narrative “Get on Board” piece was ten pages with the Freedom Riders providing the climax of the story, and the design document identified content sections and the visual/audio elements of each one. The rare records and the action in Watts are the parts of the Black Power Movement story that can best be told by MCLM. I have already mapped out visual/audio elements of the exhibit; I just need to format the descriptions to match the industry conventions. I plan to spend the upcoming week digging through the collection to find more pieces to include in the exhibit.

Posters, photographs, and newspapers from the MCLM collection


The completion date for “Audio Assault” is February 7th, which is right around the corner. To this end, I have to be very focused on moving forward with the exhibit, at the expense of all of my other projects. I believe that the MLIS graduate students who are interning at MCLM can move forward with the Online Archives of California (OAC) project. I identified Greta as a point person who can communicate with OAC, Cuadra Star database, and the staff (Cara, Larry and me) about MCLM becoming a contributor and submitting some finding aids. I really regret not being able to commit 100% to this initiative, but Greta is a problem solver and has the technical background to be successful. I put together a binder of everything that I have done so far, mainly composed of sample finding aids for similar collections from other OAC contributors, information about collections that I think would be good candidates for upload, paperwork for becoming a contributor, my Google analytics information, and a log sheet for her to keep records about what she will be able to accomplish. I also relinquished any control over volunteer tasks, including the processing of Mayme’s papers. Lastly, I have let Mr. Woods know that the processing of the LGBTQ collection will not start until the second week of February, at the earliest. I know that I will still be answering questions and be pulled in many directions at the museum, but I hope that my demonstrated “clearing of the plate” will make it easier for me to stay dedicated to the task at hand.   

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