Sunday, 10 February 2013

Week 35: Make It or Break It

In my 23rd week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I helped Cara with her exhibit, assisted with our first week of Black History Month programming, and met an impressive young woman.

There are four exhibits debuting at the museum on Saturday, February 16th and all of them requiring our staff to jump into overdrive in order to be ready on time. Cara is the lead on the “Remembering WSBREC” display in the museum. The concept is to showcase Mayme’s collection as it was when she ran her business out of the garage. We have several images of how the space looked, which we are having reproduced in vinyl to adhere to the wall, and we are pulling the books, pictures and memorabilia from the collection that used to populate the space. Cara was asked to make a text panel and pull some Mayme quotes to accent the exhibit. I took her first draft back to my “Mayme Papers processing room” and helped her fill in the gaps. Although WSBREC (Western States Black Research Center) was the most general organization that Mayme founded, it was not the first. Third World Ethnic Books was established in 1972 as a legitimate mail order ethnically diverse book supplier to libraries and universities. The idea to create a non-profit, research organization came a few years later when she realized that she had too many precious African American materials which she did not want to sell. There were other dates and details that I was able to recommend to Cara. It was nice to see the processed portion of the collection, serving a purpose. For example, anything that we would want to know about Mayme’s scholarship program or celebrity golf tournament can be found with ease, it will be especially useful as we continue to tell Mayme’s story.  

The museum has a full slate of programming scheduled for Black History Month. This week we had a jazz concert and a teacher workshop. The jazz concert was on Thursday night and featured, Eric Reed and Charles McPherson. It was amazing to see a grand piano rolled into our large courtroom, glitter and laser lights adorning the walls, and people spread out in the space to enjoy the music. Our volunteers came through like they always do, to greet people and check them in. I only had to pick up the catering for the musicians and print the ticket list. We have three more jazz duets lined up for the month of February, and I think that the turnout is going to continue to grow. On Saturday morning, we welcomed teachers to the museum for a workshop on using primary source documents to teach about abolitionists in their classrooms. We had two professors; one from University of California at Los Angeles and the other from Georgia State University, as well as Larry gave presentations. Our two UCLA interns from the history department did everything that we asked to keep the sessions moving along nicely. This week involved several late nights at the museum, but it was definitely the calm before the storm, as I have twice as many outreach activities planned for the upcoming week.

On Friday, a young lawyer, Shannon Humphrey, came into the museum to ask if she could take “author shots” in our facility. When I asked for clarification, she explained that she had written a book needed to take photos for the author’s portion of the book jacket. As soon as she told me what her book was about, I knew that she was in the right place for her pictures. Ms. Humphrey has written a pre-teen/teenage novel about a super smart, teenaged black female superhero. She told me how the book incorporates a lot of science fiction but it also includes messages about self-esteem, bullying, and striving towards ones’ dreams. I never met Mayme Clayton but I think that she would have a wide grin on her face to see how her collection had cross paths with a concept that was so much aligned with her goals. Dr. Clayton once said that she wanted black children to know that black people had done great things, what is greater than being a superhero? To top it off, I gave Shannon a tour of the museum and she was amazed by the scope and scale of the collection. She gave a small donation and plans to come back for more programs in the future. I will talk to Larry about scheduling her photo shoot, but it was really nice to meet her. You can see more about her forthcoming novel on her website:


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