TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida A&M University (FAMU) School of Graduate Studies and Research (SGSR) and the Carrie Meek – James N. Eaton, Sr. Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum (Meek-Eaton Black Archives) have been awarded a $133,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to “create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.” This year, the IMLS awarded $827,290 to eight institutions as part of the museum grants for African American History and Culture (AAHC) Program.
According to Anne-Imelda Radice, director of IMLS, “Museums dedicated to the African-American experience offer people of all backgrounds a unique opportunity to study and appreciate underrepresented aspects of our shared American history.”
With the funds from the two-year grant, the School of Graduate Studies and Research and the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Center and Museum will recruit and train African-American master’s level students for the museum profession through the “Inspiring Authorities in Museum Management” (IAMM) Project. In doing so, they will address the national shortage of African Americans with advanced degrees in museum practice. According to the 2006 Archival Census and Educational Needs Survey, only 2.8 percent of African Americans hold a master’s degree or higher in the areas of archivists, curators, or archive related museum specialists.
Given the current economic situation in the State of Florida, FAMU President James H. Ammons, strongly encourages these kinds of relationships with agencies such as the IMLS.
“This is certainly an example of the type of collaborative research efforts that we must pursue at FAMU to secure funding for our students and programs,” said Ammons.
Chanta M. Haywood, principal investigator and dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research, knows first-hand the importance of qualified, experienced museum practitioners to sustaining African-American history. She credits the work of museum curators, librarians, archivists, and individual collectors with her ability to conduct her own academic studies on nineteenth-century African-American women preachers.
“I had access to the autobiographies of black women preaching in the nineteenth century because of Centers like the Schomberg in New York that had experts trained at preserving historical material,” said Haywood. “We need more African Americans with advanced degrees in professions that are geared toward collecting and maintaining African-American cultural and historical artifacts. I pursued this effort because I strongly believe in the work of the black archives. Elizabeth Dawson is a noted curator and historian, and the graduate students who work under her leadership will be well prepared for careers in museum practice.”
The Meek-Eaton Black Archives, one of the largest and fastest growing museum and research center in the southeastern region relating to the studies of African-American history and culture, is an excellent training site for this project.
“This unique collaborative effort is a chance for FAMU and the Black Archives to expand its role and realize its full potential as a training facility for upper level administrators in the museum, archival, public history and preservation professions,” said Elizabeth Murell Dawson, Ph.D., archivist and curator for the center.
The IAMM Project provides academic instruction and practical work experiences in four primary areas of museum administration: archival administration, museum management, marketing and public relations, and information technology.
"One of our long-term goals is to ultimately offer academic programming and special certification relating to these areas,” said Dawson.
Cynthia Hughes Harris, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, is excited about developing the graduate curriculum is this area.
“We will train graduate students and lay the foundation for expanding our graduate course offerings at the same time,” said Hughes-Harris. “These types of innovative approaches to enhancing graduate education at FAMU are needed to help carry out the institution’s mission.”
For more information about the project, contact Dean Haywood at (850) 599-3505 or Dawson at (850) 599-3020.
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Posted: August 18, 2008