National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center Archival Collections

By Shelby Dixon

As part of our celebration of Archives Month on the History Blog, we wanted to highlight the fact that a number of the Ohio History Connection’s sites have their own archives. One of these sites is the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMC) in Wilberforce, Ohio. Read below to hear from Shelby Dixon, a reference archivist at OHC and a former archivist at NAAMC, about the amazing collections held at this site.

Thanks to a recent Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant, the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center has a variety of newly processed archival collections ready for research.

Located in Wilberforce, Ohio, the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center holds over 700 manuscript, photograph, and special archival collections documenting African American history, art, and culture.  The IMLS grant is helping provide the support needed to properly process, preserve, and interpret these materials.  So far, 50 collections and over 100 linear feet has been processed under the grant.  19 collection finding aids and 56 digital images have been uploaded to Ohio Memory, a statewide digital library program.

Below are just a few of the fascinating archival collections now available for research at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.  Browse through finding aids and digitized materials to determine your next research topic!

The Bernard S. Proctor Tuskegee Airmen Collection [NAM MSS 23] is just one of many World War II related collections preserved in the museum’s archives.  Proctor, a Tuskegee Airman, served as a Captain for the 99th Pursuit Fighter Squadron.  His collection is a glimpse into the life of a World War II serviceman, containing official military correspondence and Tuskegee Airmen memorabilia.  Photographs from throughout his life at home and overseas, including images taken in North Africa and Italy, are also available.  Fans of World War II history will also enjoy the museum’s newest exhibit, African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory, which includes an array of WWII related archival materials.

C.J. McLin was an Ohio State Representative from 1966 to 1988, and at the time the longest serving black legislator in Ohio history.  His massive collection, the C.J. McLin Manuscript Collection [NAM MSS 2013], contains an assortment of personal and political papers. McLin’s passion for serving his community and preserving African American history is evident throughout, especially his involvement in establishing the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in 1988. Images of C.J. with his family in Dayton and working with leaders from around the world are also included.

In the Rossville Museum Archives Collection [NAM MSS 2012], researchers will find photographs, histories, and publications documenting the treacherous journey of the Randolph Freedpeople from the Roanoke Planation in Virginia to Southeastern Ohio.  The collection, compiled by the Rossville Springcreek Historical Society, contains a variety of primary sources detailing the lives of the Randolph people and efforts to preserve their history.  Multiple blog posts telling their story are available through the Ohio History Blog, written by Archives Intern Hadley Drodge.  Those interested in this collection should also see Freed Will: The Randolph Freedpeople From Slavery to Settlement, an exhibit that will be up through November 25, 2017 at the museum.

Part of the IMLS grant supports cataloging these collections to enhance organization and accessibility.  Archives and collections staff have been imputing collection details into their new PastPerfect database, making searching and finding materials simple.

The IMLS grant has also allowed for weekly open research hours, thanks to funding for increased archives staffing.  Patrons are encouraged to visit for archival research on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from 1 to 3 p.m.  You will find the archives in the basement of the old Wilberforce Carnegie Library, where an archivist will assist you in finding and obtaining the research materials you need.  Please contact the archives staff ahead of time by emailing [email protected] prior to your visit.

The IMLS grant will support archival processing and projects at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center through 2019.  Grants like this provide essential support in making archival materials available!

Thank you to Shelby and the staff at NAAMC for this awesome look at their archives!

Posted October 25, 2017
Topics: African American History

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