Monday, 7 January 2013

Week 29-30: Welcome to 2013

Happy New Year!

In my first week back at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, I did some preliminary investigation of the Online Archive of California, worked on my Richard Love evaluation, and re-engaged with the volunteers.

Even before I arrived in Los Angeles, my predecessor, Alyss, told me that the museum would benefit from becoming a part of the online digital archive of California. I am very comfortable with this idea because my first foray into archives involved a similar project in Arizona. With the advent of EAD, it only takes a little bit of training for institutions to transform their finding aids into a format that can easily be integrated into a centralized website. These websites are ideal for researchers and provide an extraordinary amount of exposure for small archives. My biggest challenge in becoming a contributor to California’s OAC is producing finding aids that are reflective of the work that has been done and conforms to current archival standards. Most collections have been processed at the item level in the form of inventories. While these make great container lists, more work needs to be done with archival arrangement, scope and content, as well as biographical/historical notes. I don’t necessarily have the time to do the research and contact the donors to obtain the relevant information for every collection. However, I have identified three collections that just need a little bit of tweaking to be ready for submission; The Barryte, Broussard and Dismukes Doll Collection, The CAAGS Collection and The Rex and Roberta Ragan Collection. Hopefully we can breeze through the paperwork and get these materials online within the next few weeks and if I am really lucky, I’ll finish the Mayme Papers and submit the finding aid before the end of the fellowship.

I have been working on my Richard Love HistoryMaker interview for the past couple of weeks. Richard Love is the founder of The Long Beach Times newspaper. He is originally from Hahira, Georgia and spent time in Florida and Colorado before settling in California. Mr. Love is an interesting character, his views on economic development and the racial problems in America are a little intense for my taste, but I respect his contribution to the black community in Long Beach. One example of a controversial opinion that Mr. Love has is that cigarette and alcohol companies should not be the advertisers (sponsors) of important black programs or events. He cites Budweiser as an inappropriate sponsor for the concert to raise money for the United Negro College Fund. As I am processing Mayme’s papers, I can see that the Miller Brewing Company was a sponsor of her independent filmmaker’s grant program for twenty years. The prospect of earning $3,000, $2,000, or $1,000 dollars as a black filmmaker brought information requests flooding through the doors and gave Dr. Clayton a chance to help young people in their creative pursuits. As noble as her cause was, it would not have been lifted off the ground without the support of a beer company and I’m glad that she didn't refuse in an attempt to maintain an impractical moral high ground.

As soon as we opened the doors on Thursday, January 3, we were responding to phone messages and welcoming our volunteers back to the museum. Michael has made incredible progress on the duplicate book project. I imagine that I will have to break the news on how he needs to break down the 75 boxes that he has emptied over the last month. For now, we’ll keep the shelving and data entry momentum going. As of today we have 25 boxes full of true duplicates. Lena has finished her inventory of the Rex and Roberta Ragan collection and I gave her a template for a finding aid. Adell kept cataloging books and Sandra spent Saturday following up with our new members, thanking them for their donations and asking which size t-shirt they want. Irene and Christal helped us to put return the materials from the previous exhibits into their respective homes. I also spoke to Keith about his work at California State University at Northridge which includes a significant amount of photographs from African American photographers. I offered to share his contact information with the Richard Pryor documentary folks because they have some images of the comedian. Keith was also intrigued by the potential “Listen, Whitey” exhibit and offered to help devise some listening stations. Once again, the volunteers are a consistent source of inspiration for why we do what we do is so important.          

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