Monday, 25 February 2013

Week 37: Archives Rock Star

In my 25th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I supervised volunteers at a jazz concert, facilitated a collections advisory board meeting, and gave two presentations about the collection.

On Thursday, we hosted our third jazz duet featuring Karen Briggs and Patrice Rushen. Cara had stayed late for the last two evening programs, and asked me if I could take care of this one. We agreed that I would come in late, anticipating a long night based on the high volume of patron phone calls that we received about this concert. The evening started with a greeting from Patrice’s bodyguards who wanted to make sure that the building was secure, I assured them that it was. I printed the ticket lists and found the drink tickets, petty cash for change and our credit card forms for the registration table. We opened the “bookstore” which features our MCLM merchandise and some books and DVDs that past presenters have left for us to sell. I had Nancy at registration, Paula as a greeter, and Sandra in the bookstore. After 15 minutes, Sandra informed me that she did not like the bookstore assignment, so she went to registration and I covered the bookstore before the concert, and during intermission. We turned the lights off in the hallway and opened the courtroom doors so that late arrivals could get in without interrupting the performance. I watched some of the show, completely spell bound. Karen Briggs has a HistoryMaker interview on the website, and with her locks pulled up in a high ponytail and a violin at her neck, I could see how she dazzled international audiences. Patrice Rushen was a protégé of Herbie Hancock and even though most know her as a vocalist from, “Forget me nots”, she is an extraordinary instrumentalist; she played the piano for us on Thursday. At 11:00, the music was over and our guests had filed out and I thought it would be time to go home; but I still had to chat with volunteers, return all of the materials to their proper place, and help Larry set up the audio equipment for the weekend activities at the museum. By midnight, I was headed home completely understanding of Cara’s request to take a night off.

On Saturday, I left home early to pick up coffee and donuts for the second Collections Advisory Board meeting at 9:00. At our last meeting, I was tasked with putting together a collection summary, and submitting it to the group so that we could discuss collection processing priorities this month. I spent a great deal of time drafting documents that would help me understand and then communicate to them how collection materials flow through the museum. I drafted an appraisal policy, processing workflow, collection summary, and percent processed document to facilitate the discussion. I prefaced the talk with an admission that I am an archivist, who is pre-occupied with logic, processes and order. The group is composed of professors, historians, researchers and a filmmaker; I needed their help to determine the best direction for my energy, based on their respective experience and knowledge of the collection. The group very quickly came to the consensus that the Mayme A. Clayton Collection of African American History and Culture was the only priority in terms of processing. I explained that the collection must be over 500 linear feet and includes series that are still being processed at an item level (magazines and books) and series that have barely been described (manuscript and sculpture). They confirmed; we needed to get a hold of the entire thing before we moved on to Black LGBTQ, Diane Watson, Marilyn White, etc. I knew that I had a strong handle on Mayme’s papers, but I was more than a little floored about accounting for the rest of her materials in a finding aid. However, what came out of my mouth next belied that thought, “I’ll assess the situation, re-direct our volunteers, and have it done before the end of my fellowship”. The meeting went on to discuss funding sources, website, digitization, student internships, publicity and variety of other important topics. When we got to the end and identified action items that we would be responsible for, I explained that I would work very hard to accomplish the goal and communicate any challenges to its attainment in the meetings that we have ahead. The poet and filmmaker, S. Pearl Sharp, kindly told me to focus on making it happen and not even consider failure; so we shall see how this all turns out.

On Saturday and Sunday, I represented MCLM to two different community groups. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) was having a luncheon for their current and future members in our “great room”. The “great room” is the site of our Jacob Lawrence exhibit. During the introduction the coordinators asked me to share more about the museum, and give a little information about Jacob Lawrence. I told the audience about Dr. Clayton, my role on the staff, and encouraged them to volunteer with us. I pointed out the how the Jacob Lawrence prints were grouped by series, Toussaint L’Overture, Migration, Builders, Hiroshima, and Genesis, and explained the context. I returned toward the end of the program to lead a tour of about 20 people through the museum. They seemed very enthusiastic and many planned to submit volunteer paperwork in the weeks ahead, it was a great group of individuals. On Sunday, I joined Lloyd Clayton and one of our volunteers, Herb, to present at the Village Green. The Village Green is an expensive and verdant cluster of condominiums in Baldwin Hills. It was built in 1942 and was declared a historic landmark in 2001. For black history month, one of the coordinators invited us to share some artifacts and stories with the community members. There must have been 80 people in the room as Lloyd shared anecdotes about his mother and I talked about our programs and collections. Afterwards, dinner was served and many people approached us with comments and questions about getting involved. Between, Saturday and Sunday, the most common comment was, “If I had known about your organization I would have been involved a long time ago”. We seem to be getting people on board one program at a time.

Audio Assault Update: Due to a film shoot on February 27 through March 1st, the walls will need to be painted and we are still waiting on the text panels. In the meantime, the buzz is starting…..   

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