Portfolio of Cheylon K. Woods

Public Programming

As a part of my fellowship and the Archival Training Collaborative workshops I attended, I am working on some public programs. At the moment, I am working on three programs; a basic  photo preservation workshop, a basic exhibit design and interpretation workshop, and a public event that will be hosted in Tuskegee, Alabama.

The exhibit design workshop, entitled “Giving the World a Glimpse of…” : the basic ins and outs of exhibit design and interpretation,  will be held on January 27, 2012. This workshop will provide participants with hands on experience in developing a basic interpretative plan and poster exhibit. I am really excited about this workshop because it allows me to share my love for interpretation and exhibit design with people who normally would not see the use for it. In my world, everything is an exhibit because everything conveys or reinforces the ideas of its creator(s) or society as a whole. I am also really excited about the photo preservation workshop! I am working with one of the other archivist here and we will be talking to local genealogical societies about the best way to preserve their family photographs for longevity. This is something that most people seem to have an interest in, so I think we will have a good turn out. 

 While I love all three topics that I am working on, I am most excited about the Tuskegee public program, which is entitled “What they captured and what we remember.”  The purpose of this program, which will be hosted in March of 2012, is to gather more information about photographs taken by Jim Peppler for the Southern Courier by taking the pictures back into the communities that served as his photographic muse. These communities provided so much information to the Southern Courier while it was in publication, and they can still provide information to the repositories that house these photographs.  I feel like this particular workshop is helpful for the community because it gives them a chance to have a say in how the photographs are described, and it is helpful for the archive because it provides a valuable opportunity to gather information that will be helpful to researchers in the future. If all goes according to plan, I hope to have a collection of pictures that contain names of people, exact locations, and a brief description of the purpose of  the gathering or event.

 A little background information about the Southern Courier: The Southern Courier was an integrated newspaper that ran from 1965 through 1968 with the purpose of covering the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South. This paper published around 176 issues that chronicled the daily lives and race relations in southern Black and White Communities. The paper was the brain child of Harvard students, but most of its reporters were from the south. The paper hired reporters and photographers in the cities that witnessed the most Civil Rights events, Montgomery, Jackson (Miss.), Birmingham and Tuskegee.  The paper and its staff prided itself on reporting factual stories and disseminating honest and truthful information about the Civil Rights Movement and race relations in the South. This paper wrote stories on all the key players involved in any racial protest or altercation, which helped develop a wealth of information and insight about the thought process behind the race movements of the mid to late 60s.


In October of this year I received the opportunity to participate in an Archival training collaborative workshop in Jackson, Mississippi. The Archival Training Collaborative is an IMLS funded initiative to establish a sustainable program of affordable archival training opportunities for staff and volunteers in historical repositories in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (http://www.archivaltraining.org/index.html), and anyone else who would be interested in attending. This particular workshop was a train the trainer session where we learned how to develop our own workshop programs. I must say, I met some very dedicated people at this workshop who encouraged and helped me develop my workshop, ” ‘Giving the world a Glimpse…’ The ins and outs of basic exhibit design and interpretation”, which will be held on January 27, 2012 at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.  I attended a second meeting in November where I met more ATC trainers and learned how their workshops went. Again, everyone was so nice and supportive, and they all had some awesome workshops! Between Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, there have been workshops about arrangement, preservation, storage, genealogical research…just to name a few topics! every trainer I met was very well versed in their topics and dedicated to sharing their knowledge with the general public. I, personally, am looking to see what new workshops are being hosted soon!

The Alabama Historical Association’s annual Fall Pilgrimage was held on October 21-22, 2011.    This year the pilgrimage highlighted Tuskegee University and Booker T. Washington. This was a wonderful event, which consisted of a reception and a day of talks and activities. The reception to celebrate the pilgrimage was held at the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, on October 21, 2011. This center, established in 1997, by Attorney Fred Gray as a memorial to the victims of the Tuskegee syphilis study that was spearheaded by Attorney Fred Grey. He and his family are deeply invested in the longevity of this initiative to preserve and document the history of Tuskegee and Macon County. At this reception I met other history enthusiasts and professionals, visited the museum and heard a wonderful discussion on the Tuskegee Airmen.

On October 22, 2011 I enjoyed a number of discussions hosted by Tuskegee University. The two main speakers, Dr. Mark Hersey (author of My Work is that of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver)  and Ellen Weiss(author of Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington),  talked about the architect who built Tuskegee Institute and George Washington Carver’s work as a biological conservator. 

I greatly enjoyed both of these presentations, but I was thoroughly captivated by the discussion on George Washington Carver!

This discussion was very insightful because it shed new light on Dr. Carver’s work and showed the present day application of many of his studies. Dr. Hersey took care to point out that Dr. Carver was much more than just the “peanut man.” I also took a wonderful tour of the university archives with Dana Chandler (University Archivist) and National Park Sites in Tuskegee (The Carver Museum, The Oaks, and Moton Field).  There is so much history and culture in this small town, and I applaud the work of local and national agencies in preserving and interpreting it! I encourage anyone in the area, residents and visitors, to take time and experience Tuskegee! 


For more information about the places I have discussed, please see following links:







Hello from Alabama!!!!

Sorry for the delay in updates…I have been very busy here! Here’s an update on what I have been doing thus far:

As you know, I am an IMLS Fellow, and I was placed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, Alabama. As a recap, the Alabama Department of Archives and History is the nation’s oldest state repository and archive, beating the Mississippi Department of Archives and History by one year. The mission statement of this repository is to collect, protect and preserve the history of all Alabamians.  This repository has extensive collections of Civil War related materials, newspapers published in Alabama (the majority of which is on microfilm), a broad digital collection, military papers, etc. The great thing is a lot of it is online! Check out the link here: http://www.archives.alabama.gov/ .

While I have been here I have cataloged about sixteen records, which are available online, and they span different materials. I have worked with slave bills of sales, civil rights ephemera, plantation records, White Citizens papers and pamphlets, judicial papers and organizational papers, private collections… just to name a few! Every collection that I have cataloged taught me something new about the history of the state, the citizens who shaped it, and the preservation needs for the collections.

Of all of the collections that I have worked with thus far, the following two have stood out the most:

The William Stanley Pace collection: William Stanley Pace was a local member of the White Citizen’s council, which was a national white  segregationist organization,  in Selma, Alabama. In its doctrine, this organization was in favor of the preservation of segregation and separation of the races, but rejected the techniques employed by supremacist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan. Instead, this organization turned to literature and voting to maintain the status quo in the South.  There are two very interesting things about this collection; the almost complete set of rhetoric pamphlets and the fact that the family held on and saw the importance in donating the papers to the state archive. While ideas that were popularized within this organization were commonplace during the early and mid 20th century, over time they fell out of favor and were shunned by the majority and the powers at be, and people tended to hide their affiliation to such groups. From a preservation standpoint, I had to think carefully about how the information could be used and the probability of the information being stolen from the repository, which dictates the kinds of restrictions on the collection. In the end, we decided to copy the pamphlets so we could keep the originals safe and still allow access to the information.

Photo from the Charles Dunn Family Collection from the Alabama Department of History and archives

The Charles Dunn Family Collection: This is a very exciting collection to me because it  documents the Black middle and upper-middle class in Montgomery, Alabama! Mr. Dunn was a graduate from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and he coached at Alabama State University well into the mid-late 20th century. In this collection, there are different types of materials, including photographs  that  provide a glimpse into the life of a community that gets very little attention (in my opinion). Outside of moving things into book boxes and setting things aside to be scanned, this was a very easy collection to catalog, but the information it provides is immeasurable!!!

In addition to my cataloging adventures here at the archives, I have also been helping with the public programs hosted by the Archives, called ArchiTreats, presented at the Society of Alabama Archivists (SALA) on the benefits and purpose of oral history and oral history records in archives, participated in the Alabama Historical Association’s Fall pilgrimage to  Tuskegee and became an Archival Training Collaborative (ATC) trainer (which included two training sessions in Jackson, Mississippi. I am currently working on three public programs, one utilizing the Peppler/ Southern Courier collection, one on photo preservation, and a workshop on exhibit design, and I will keep every one posted on the progress of those programs!

Until next time!!!!

Cheylon Woods

Welcome to Alabama!

I have completed my first week at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, which is located in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, and I am very excited about the new wonderful opportunities! The staff is so warm and welcoming, and everyone is excited about the collections that they are working one. After my orientation I processed four collection, including a collection including documentation on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Citizens’ Council.  If you would like to see more of the collection and exhibits at ADAH, just visit their website at http://www.archives.state.al.us.

IMLS Fellowship

I am a recent  recipient of the Increasing African American Diversity in Archives yearlong fellowship from The Historymakers organization in Chicago, Illinois. As a recipient of this grant I  have embarked on a three month immersion training program in the field of archival work at The Historymakers office. Over the last two months I have worked on processing numerous fascinating digital  interviews of prominent African Americans throughout the country. I have also been a part of symposiums with professionals in my field, like Daniel Pitti and Kathryn Stine, as well as scholars in African American history and culture, like Christopher Reed and Kathleen Bethel. We have visited the Great Lakes National Archives, and I was very encouraged by the kind words of Mr.Bicknese.

All of the training I have received thus far, and what I will continue to lean is all in preparation for the work I will be doing at the Alabama Department of Archives and History for the rest of the fellowship. I am very excited to learn new techniques and collaborate with my fellow fellowship recipients and the archivists at the Alabama Department of Archives and History to find new ways to make these repositories a cornerstone in their communities.

Halito (Hello)

I have always had a passion for culture,  not just my own, but all cultures of the world. As a young child I found myself drawn to museums, festivals, dances, powwows, and any other event that allowed me the opportunity to learn about different cultures through the eyes of those who it belongs to.  It was not until I was much older I realized that  all of these things fall under a field that is called Public History. As a 2011 Candidate for the Masters of Arts in Heritage Resources (MAHR) program at Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, Louisiana),  and a Graduate Assistant For the Williamson Museum at Northwest State University, I have had plenty of opportunities to sharpen my skills in Public History. This program has allowed me to explore the fields of  Interpretation, Oral History, Ethnography, Anthropology, Archeology, Exhibit design, and Museum curation.

Our society  is built on the different cultures that are held within its borders.  These cultures have their own stories. Through my studies I have acquired skills that enable me to help preserve, interpret, and document these stories in a way that  accurately and honestly conveys significance to the outside world.

Exhibits are an excellent way to convey the past in the present. Exhibits have the ability to display the life and lifestyles of any particular person or people, at any particular time  in a complete and concise manner.

I have takes classes in  museum studies and exhibit design, and have assisted in two exhibits, one at Oakland Plantation, and one at Williamson Museum. At Oakland I worked on the pantry exhibit in the main house, and at Williamson Museum I worked on a retrospective exhibit of Basket day. The purpose of the exhibit is to remember the artists who have come and help make Basket day a success  over the decades. This was accomplished by utilizing photos and artifacts that different artisans donated to the museum over the years.

I am currently working on an exhibit for my project thesis. The title of the exhibit is “Why We Dance” and I will utilize different pictures from the four organizations that I have interviewed to capture their different reasons for hosting and participating in powwows. I will also use artifacts that give a general idea of what type of regalia a spectator would see at a powwow.

Oral history and Ethnography is a wonderful way to preserve valuable information in numerous communities.  I have completed one oral history project and am currently working on another one for the thesis portion of  my program. The completed oral history project is entitled “Surviving Through Lean Times” and this project was for the Louisiana Folk life Festival. This oral history project was focused on the different ways people coped during the Great Depression, and consisted of interviews from people who experienced the Great Depression at different ages and stages in life. for this project I conducted 2 interviews, One with a Mr. Eddie Powell, who grew up in a suburb in Shreveport, Louisiana,  and one with  a Mr. Clifton Woods Jr., who grew up sharecropping in Arkansas. The views that these two men had on the same national crisis was eye opening.

The other project I am currently working on is titled “The Evolution of the Powwow Tradition among Southeastern Tribes: Louisiana”. To date i have completed 6 oral history interviews for this project with members of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe in Marksville Louisiana, The Choctaw-Apache tribe of Ebarb, Louisiana, Louisiana Indian Heritage Association, and Twin Eagles inter-tribal association.  The purpose of this project is to record how these organizations started powwowing and why.

Interpretation is vital in heritage resources because it is the vehicle that transports the story of the artifacts and sites.

This previous summer I worked at Oakland National Park. I have volunteered at this park before, once working with exhibit design and another time as a docent on the Fall Tour of Homes 2009. While working as a docent at the tenant house, I realized the importance of interpretation. That following summer I was employed as a park ranger at Oakland Plantation, and during this summer employment I developed a children tour entitled “Who am I?” The purpose of this tour was to show the children the similarities and differences between the two major agricultural work systems in the South, Slavery and Sharecropping.  For the end of the tour I developed a Venn Diagram that the children built together based on the information they received on the tour. As a Park Ranger I also developed a Main House Tour that highlighted the the resilience and resourcefulness of the Phrudomme Family throughout the Plantation era.

I also developed a children’s tour for the Williamson Museum at Northwestern State University for a group of Boy and Girl Scouts. This tour discussed the different tribes that are displayed in the museum.

Tag Cloud