Sunday, 7 April 2013

Week 41-42: Viva la Revolucion!

In my 29th and 30th weeks at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I interviewed candidates for our internship program, presented at the Roses and Revolutions Listening Party, and visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Several weeks ago, Larry and I drafted job descriptions and announcements for three paid internships at the museum. We were looking for students to tackle social media, public programs, and public relations for us. The response was not as great as we would have liked, but the three that we decided to interview proved to be very enthusiastic and motivated young women. We managed to schedule all three back to back on Saturday. Larry was running late, so I conducted all of Susan’s and half of Laura’s interview by myself. Larry and I both asked questions of our last candidate, Kenna. I have served on selection committees in the past, and all of the questions were prescribed and we would go around the table asking questions and taking copious notes. In this experience, I had researched a few common interview questions to get the session started but the majority of the time was spent asking follow up or probing questions about their responses to my initial questions. I found myself looking beyond a polished resume and trying to imagine how that person would fit into the “work” culture at the museum. Would she have an attitude if we asked her to stuff envelopes or sweep the floor? Could she remain positive about the potential of the museum in spite of negative gossip? How much value did she place on the history and culture of African Americans? It took me four months to get used to how things run at MCLM, and these interns would only have ten weeks to get adjusted and be productive. Larry and I discussed the positive and negative attributes of each candidate and decided that all three would be a good fit here at the museum. I am looking forward to sharing the workload with these bright and capable students.     

For the majority of the past two weeks, I have been focused on Roses and Revolutions Listening Party which was scheduled for March 30th. There was so much that needed to be done. I had to make sure that my videographer was aware of the details and could see how we would be positioned and what the lighting would be like. I was collecting RSVPs from the answering machine and scraps of paper on other people’s desks. I had to make sure that the albums were digitized for easy music cues during the presentation. I also had to scan images from the MCLM collection for the PowerPoint that would be scrolling in the background. The biggest task was making sure that Dr. Williams and I were on the same page about how the presentation would flow. I arranged to meet her at her house on Monday to discuss the program. We spent five hours in her living room listening to the record, and talking about which ideas and themes, the words and music could spark in the audience. It was my idea to play our favorite tracks but Dr. Williams was insistent on presenting the album as a whole. She said that the producers chose the poems and compositions in a specific order to convey a message, and it would be an insult to them to chop it up. I conceded to her point and we also agreed to let the audience share their reaction rather than talk too much about our own interpretations.

On the day of the program, I arrived early but got caught up in other projects which resulted in my scrambling around in the half hour before the presentation. To make matters trickier, Dr. Williams decided that morning that we should spend the audio time on the entire first side of the album, and the last ten minutes of the concluding album. My list of RSVPs included twenty five individuals, and I counted twenty people in the audience, ninety five percent of them were members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. After the introduction from Larry, I explained who I was and how the record was related to my exhibit, then I introduced Dr. Williams. She talked for about ten minutes, and then I played the record. I was so nervous; I cued the wrong playlist at first, my twenty seconds of fumbling felt like an eternity. Luckily with the new format, I could cue the PowerPoint and just listen with everybody else for the thirty minutes that it took for the first side of the record to play. The audience’s response and questions took up the next thirty minutes. Many of the people had not heard the record in twenty years and this program was bringing back many of their memories. One woman commented that as an educator she could see this dynamic recording as a resource for teaching music appreciation, women’s studies, African American history, and poetry.

The questions that were asked kept Dr. Williams on cue to share her experience of being there when the idea for the recording came about. Dr. Williams and I summarized the content of sides two, three and four; and then I cued the last ten minutes of side four. I asked for a few more reactions and then Dr. Williams spent a little time talking about the D.S.T. Telecommunications’ funded film, Countdown at Kusini, and how it was a reaction to the popular Blaxploitation films of the time. 

In conclusion, I shared how much I enjoyed working with Dr. Williams and what wonderful exposure working in archives could create. Larry was on cue to encourage the group to continue supporting the museum, and Dr. Williams said that it was her pleasure to be a part of this program. I turned on some Manu DiBango from the Countdown at Kusini soundtrack as the group filed out. Several people approached us afterwards to compliment us on the program and give ideas about how we can reach out to a larger audience, namely working with the collegiate chapters and contacting the Grammy Foundation for more support and resources. Overall, I think that I did a good job on the execution of the program, and I am glad that other people can see the mass appeal of the program.

After all of the stress of planning for the Roses and Revolutions Listening Party, I took myself out to the Los Angeles County Art Museum (LACMA). I had heard so many good things about what they were doing in there with all of the money that they raised. While I enjoyed looking at the modern art and their special rooms dedicated to Pacific Islanders, the Stanley Kubrick exhibit was by far the most fascinating to me. In my estimation, the curators had used sophisticated technology and sleek installations to make the Kubrick archive, which is held at The University of the Arts London, come alive. Kubrick’s notebooks and production notes were all on display in addition to his films, associated props and costumes, and photographs. Not only did they highlight the iconic films that Kubrick is famous for such as, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, 2001: Space Odyssey, and The Shining; the exhibit featured his plans to make films about Napoleon and the Holocaust. The exhibit at LACMA brought to my mind some ideas that Larry and I had discussed earlier this year about Mayme’s papers being the basis of a traveling exhibit. Mayme’s story connects so many pieces of American History; it would not take much imagination to string together a compelling narrative. I could not imagine taking on the logistics of that project at this point but it was nice to see that something similar could be done so successfully.  

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