Hidden Histories II and the Importance of Community Voices

hiddenhist1by Lyndsey Pender

During my junior year of college, one of my most intense classes was Anthropology of Gender. The words and stories told in one particular book that we read, Lila Abu- Lughod’s Writing Women’s Worlds: Bedouin Stories, were crafted so uniquely that they left a lasting impression. In this ethnography Abu-Lughod did what she called “Writing against culture.” For Abu-Lughod this stood as a counter to the ordinary ethnography and helped to avoid the “othering effect” that may creep into writing when the author is expressing ideas about a culture other than their own. Throughout the ethnography Abu-Lughod quoted directly the words of the women and the men that she studied, therefore allowing their stories to resonate on a personal level, and most importantly allowing for the human condition to shine through. The ideas present in the beliefs surrounding “Writing against culture” have stayed with me through my anthropological education and application. And when I was brought onto the Hidden Histories II project at the beginning of June, I was able to see these ideas applied first hand.

There are many levels present throughout the Hidden Histories II project that include, community empowerment, engagement, partnership, and education about local Memphis and Southwest Memphis history. At its core, this project revolves around expressing and publishing the voices of the community. Through collaboration with Freedom Preparatory Charter School in Memphis, TN, three students were selected to participate in the Hidden Histories II project. Loreal Jones, Miracle Clark and Jamal Jones, were asked to collect interviews from family members. Through these interviews the students wrote a detailed biography about each person, and about their individual ties to the Southwest Memphis community. From there the students also produced a biography about themselves expressing their ideas about the area and their educational goals post graduation from Freedom Prep. Although we did not specifically write against culture in the Hidden Histories II project, our focus like Abu-Lughod in Writing Women’s Worlds was on the individual voice and story, so much so that the students involved in the project were given creative reign as authors.

After the students collected their stories, a week was spent at Freedom Prep editing, revising, and examining the information present in every text. Individual stories from parents and grandparents held information about Memphis and Southwest Memphis, and as a collective group we were able to discuss, analyze, and digest this information. For instance, we discussed the John Gaston Hospital, as Rosie Jones, Loreal’s grandmother, recalled being born there. The hospital is now apart of the MED located downtown, but it was once the only location where African American babies could be born. Rosie Jones also recalled her participation in the Cotton Makers Jubilee, which was the African American counterpart to the Cotton Carnival, an event that was established to stimulate the buying and wearing of cotton products in the 1800s. Students were also able to learn more about the Memphis Sanitation Strike as Jamal Jones’ grandfather, Aubrey Payne, recalled marching along with the striking sanitation workers.

Historical textbook events like Jim Crow Segregation, The Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam and Iraqi Wars, were brought full circle, coming to life thanks to firsthand accounts provided by parents and grandparents alive during these times. Students engaged with these events in a new way, learning of the activists, supporters, and leaders present in their own families locally.

In its last stages of completion, Hidden Histories II: Young Voices from Freedom Preparatory, looks to give the pen back to the community to express its personal voices and views. In this case we speak specifically of the youth voice, one that may be overshadowed and looked down upon, however, a voice that should be heard nonetheless. The youth are the backbone of our communities and our cities and when they speak we should all listen. The talented group of students selected from Freedom Preparatory Charter School have already shown that they wish to make their own impact on history both locally and nationally, and the Hidden Histories II e-book goes into detail about how these students wish to achieve this. Thanks in full to Dr. Cynthia Sadler, project coordinator and University of Memphis professor, and the faculty at Freedom Preparatory Charter School. Most importantly, thanks to our young leaders, Miracle Clark, Loreal Jones, and Jamal Jones, youth tasked with the important role of being the authors and keepers of history.

In the coming weeks the Hidden Histories II e-book and related materials will be available at southwestmemphis.com

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Contact Lyndsey at lyndsey.pender187@topper.wku.edu

 

 

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Co-Creation: The Messiness of Being Relevant

Originally posted on Archaeology, Museums & Outreach:

This past Saturday temperatures in Memphis were in the upper 90s to insure a pretty light turn out for our regular Volunteer Day activities at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa – especially since we advertised a focus for the month on outdoor landscaping and gardening.  In the end, we had a great day.

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Carmello Burks and Rachel Clark planting the Butterfly Garden.

First, Rachel Clark from my Applied Archaeology and Museums class this past semester had proposed that we install a butterfly garden in the area that in Chucalissa’s pre-NAGPRA days housed the display of human remains excavated from the site. Over the past few weeks Rachel and I discussed the sensitive logistics for the proposed installation.  The garden could not intrude below the ground surface in any way, given the very real possibility of remaining human burials in the vicinity.  We also discussed installing a panel on…

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The Experience of Museum Advocacy

Originally posted on Archaeology, Museums & Outreach:

PatriciaHarrisPatricia Harris is a recent graduate of the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis (UM).  She also served for two years as a Graduate Assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  For her Graduate Thesis Project at the UM she assessed a three-year museum advocacy project in greater Memphis, Tennessee, US.  At the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Meetings this past month in Seattle, Patricia was featured in the session Effective Advocacy in Your Community: Learn How! where she spoke about her advocacy project.  Below is a summary of her presentation.

Measuring Advocacy Effectiveness in Memphis Museums

by Patricia Harris

My thesis project at the University of Memphis explored advocacy practices in Memphis area museums, as well as the broader concept of museum advocacy.  My personal advocacy experience began in 2012 in the Museum Practices seminar, one of the core courses in the University’s Museum Studies…

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Our Graduating Graduate Assistants – Brooke Mundy

 

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Claire Brooke Mundy is our fourth graduating Graduate Assistant from the C.H. Nash Museum this spring.  Brooke served as the Collections Manager at the Museum for the past two years.

Over that two-year period she completed a diversity of tasks including:

  • Refurbished, re-organized, and instituted a series of best practices in the repository and collections management system.
  • Coordinated the inventory and transfer of the Museum’s library and associated records to a new site location.
  • Organized the collections component of our volunteer and community service learning programs that included three AmeriCorps NCCC teams.
  • Instituted our Artifact of the Week Facebook post and contributed to the Chucalissa e-Anumpoli blog.
  • Revised and updated the Museum’s Collections Management Plan and Disaster Plan.

Brooke’s most memorable experiences during her GA at Chucalissa include getting real-time experience that she was able to directly apply to her career.  During her tenure she also was awarded scholarships to attend multiple conferences that dealt with legal issues in museums, special needs accessibility, and other topics.  Brooke reports making “great friends, colleagues, and memories” as a highlight of her time at Chucalissa.

Brooke just returned from Seattle where she attended the American Alliance of Museum annual meeting.  Finally, we congratulate Brooke for being hired as the new Collections and Special Projects Coordinator at the Morton Museum of Collierville!!  Being awarded this position, even before formally graduating with her Masters Degree from the University of Memphis is a testament to Brooke’s exceptional qualifications and her taking advantage of the opportunity to develop and apply those skills while a Graduate Assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum.

Stop by the Morton Museum and say hello to their newest employee!

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Our Graduating Graduate Assistants – Carolyn Trimble

CtrimbleCarolyn Trimble has served as a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum for the past year.  Before that she worked as a temporary staff member.

During Carolyn’s tenure as a Graduate Assistant she carried out a number of activities including:

  • Organized a focus group for area teachers to get their recommendations on updating our hands-on archaeology lab .
  • Contributed her previous teaching experience to our educational programs.
  • Assisted in exhibit fabrication, repair, and maintenance
  • Created a series of Facebook posts based on photographs curated at the Museum.

Carolyn recounts that her most memorable experiences include:

working with a special needs adult who came here with a group. She was interested in archaeology and I was able to give her and her teacher resources so she could continue to learn more and possibly pursue a career in the field. I have also had many positive experiences helping families have fun and bridge generation gaps – last summer I had a bored teenaged boy visit with his grandparents. I offered to show him how to throw darts with an atlatl, which he absolutely loved. By the end of their visit, he was actively engaged in conversation with his grandparents and they had plans to buy him an atlatl kit for Christmas.

Over the summer Carolyn will complete her graduate practicum, which is a community-based project to clean, preserve, and repair headstones in the historic African-American Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Memphis. After graduation she plans to pursue a career as a museum professional or continue work in cemetery restoration.

Best wishes to Carolyn as she goes forward!

 

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The Road Less Traveled at Chucalissa

rachelcoverHere is another photo essay from a walk in the woods at Chucalissa.  This set of images is by Rachel Clark, currently an intern at the C.H. Nash Museum.

Rachel writes:

My dad raised me to appreciate the natural beauty of our world – the myriad colors of a sunset, the way the wind makes tall grasses look like shimmering green liquid, and the harmonious sound of millions of creatures singing the songs of spring. What does a video game or T.V. show have against nature? Not a damn thing! Let’s go outside!

Like this set of photos?  Check out what other Museum staff saw when they took a walk in the woods!  And most important, visit us at Chucalissa and take a walk in our woods and then send us your set of photos.

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Our Graduating Graduate Assistants – Patricia Harris

PatriciaPatricia Harris first came to the C.H. Nash Museum as an undergraduate intern three years ago.  Her interest at the time was in forensic anthropology.  For her internship Patricia inventoried human remains curated at the C.H. Nash Museum.

By the time Patricia entered graduate school in 2012 her research focus changed considerably.  She chose to pursue a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies and the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate as the best fit for her evolving interest in museum advocacy and nonprofit administration.  During her graduate assitantship at the C.H. Nash Museum, Patricia helped develop the new visitors guide and volunteer program.  This year she coordinated our very successful 16th Annual Relic Run 5k event.

Patricia also was able to combine her graduate assistant experience and the Museum Studies Program to land internships at the American Association of State and Local History and the National Civil Rights Museum.  She counts her graduate assistant experience in attending the American Alliance of Museum’s Advocacy Day for the past two years as instrumental in shaping her current career direction.

Patricia said “I really also enjoyed the ability to do projects that interested me within the museum context. At Chucalissa I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom in a real museum setting and find out my strengths and weaknesses within the field.”

We are confident that Patricia will continue to make meaningful contributions in museums as she continues building her career!

 

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