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:
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.
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.