Thursday, 21 March 2013

Week 40: Westside!

In my 28th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I discussed the museum’s involvement with Project West, applied for the archivist certification exam, and gave several tours.  

Audio Assault Update: We mounted two television screens on the hallway walls this week. We also hung up the “Burn, Baby Burn” map, and seven out of thirty of the albums. I had determined that we needed more plexi frames with the holes drilled in the borders several weeks ago, and we were able to put the order in on Thursday. Upon hanging some of the album frames we saw that the wooden blocks that were holding the items were longer than they should be, essentially needing to be cut in half. The image reproductions, labels, and text panels will be ready on Wednesday, so we should be hanging materials in the upcoming week.    

On Tuesday of this week, I had a meeting with Gregory Everett, the coordinator behind Project West, which is an initiative to tell the history of west coast hip hop. Last spring Larry, Gregory and forty west coast hip hop pioneers met at MCLM to discuss why it is important to collect their stories and which tangible projects could come out of the collaborations. One idea that has gained some traction is a travelling exhibition filled with cultural artifacts from the west coast hip hop scene. Larry encouraged Gregory to use the museum has a headquarters for the collecting of those materials. On Tuesday, Gregory told me more about his ideas and his project, and I showed him some potential spaces for him to meet with donors and work on the exhibition. He also requires space to conduct oral histories. The challenge of choosing a space involves making sure that he will have consistent access, regardless of film shoots, concerts, tours, and not compromise the security of any of our collections. I have also been tasked with going over our deposit agreement paperwork with Gregory so that he can be transparent with his donors about the custodianship of their materials. I will have to consult some archival resources to learn about the best practices for describing a set of turntables and a microphone, donated from a local DJ.    

On Wednesday evening, I finally set down and submitted my application for the Academy of Certified Archivists exam. I had applied for this exam in 2011 and was rejected because I did not have enough experience or a master’s degree with archival concentration. Instead of tossing my goals aside, I moved to Chicago, went to the annual Society of American Archivist conference, and joined Chicago Area Archivists to figure out how to earn what the Academy of Certified Archivists thought I was missing. Fast forward two years, and I am applying for the exam with a bit more confidence. I know that the fellowship will help with future employment opportunities through the work experience and networking, but becoming certified will demonstrate my understanding of the core values and responsibilities of an archivist. If all goes well, I’ll be sitting for the exam in the days before this year’s annual conference in New Orleans. If all goes even better, I will make time to study in the next several months and PASS this year’s exam in New Orleans!

MCLM was full of people wanting tours on Saturday. There are times when I think that there is so much to do to get the collection in order; we should not waste time walking the public through our bare hallways. Days like Saturday make me believe otherwise. When I take visitors to the “Mayme” room and explain how Dr. Clayton wanted black children to know that their people had made positive contributions and she collected material for 45 years, they are impressed. When I share that as Mayme was getting older and the collection was more susceptible to damage in the garage, her son (Avery) began looking for a permanent location for the entire collection, and the day before she died, he told her that he had secured this de-commissioned courthouse in Culver City, BOOM (I drop the microphone), the group erupts with applause! In reality, there is rarely the sound of hands clapping, but people do like to see the story have a happy ending. From there, the tour is really a piece of cake. I show them the volunteer space and how we have processed books, pamphlets, and sheet music. The next stop is the photograph room, where I tell them how Mayme acquired a significant portion of the Sepia magazine photograph archives, and show them a scrapbook of the little known female African American aviator from the 1940’s, Marie Dickerson. Then we go into the magazine room, where they are amazed by the boxes upon boxes of black magazines, that is when I tell them how Mayme had a copy of the first Ebony magazine that John H. Johnson wanted to buy from her, but she refused to sell. I take them to the Jacob Lawrence gallery and spend a few minutes talking about the Hiroshima, Toussaint L’Overture, Migration, Genesis, and Builders series that we are displaying from the Alitash Kebede collection. We walk down the hallway, peek inside the book rooms and I talk about the Steve Buchanan jazz collection. Then we are off to the judge’s chambers and the jail space where I tell them how we use the space to simulate being arrested for non-violent protest, and have school groups sing freedom songs in the jail. We finish in the courtroom where I talk about our monthly movie screenings and other events that are hosted here. This is also where I make the case that the museum does not have any major benefactors and we stay open through grants and donations. Sometimes people donate, other times they ask for volunteer applications, regardless of their next move, they represent a new group of people in the world who know about this incredible woman. My finding aid will just have to wait until next week.      

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