Tuesday, February 20, 2024

New Exhibition Opening Soon at the Library

On Thursday, March 7, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., the Hudson Area Library will host an opening reception and panel discussion for the exhibition A Dialogue Across Generations: Making Connections through the BLACC Collection, curated and programmed by Tanya Jackson, founder of the annual Columbia County Juneteenth archival exhibit and celebration, Who We Be! The exhibit will be on view through April. The Black Legacy Association of Columbia County (BLACC) Oral History Project collection was meticulously curated in the 1980s by volunteer researchers from Columbia Opportunities’ Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP). The collection was donated to the Hudson Area Library in 2018. It has since been digitized, archived, and made accessible online at blacc.hudsonarealibrary.org, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Funding for this exhibition has been provided, in part, by a Humanities NY Action Grant.

Children from the Sunday school class, with their teacher, on the steps of the original AME Zion Church at Second and State streets, circa 1900

This exhibition is an effort to bridge historical knowledge gaps and foster a more inclusive community narrative. It will delve into the cultural, familial, economic, social, and religious history of Black people in the county, highlight long-neglected aspects of our local heritage, and spark vital conversations about representation, understanding, and unity. Jackson will also be utilizing recordings from the Oral History Summer School’s archive of local oral histories, The Community Library of Voice and Sound (CLOVS) www.libraryofvoiceandsound.org, to integrate oral histories across generations of Black families in Hudson.

In addition to the opening reception and panel discussion, the library will be holding two special programs in conjunction with this special exhibit. On Saturday, March 9, at 12:00 noon, the library will host a hands-on youth workshop for ages 7 and up, to introduce youth to this valuable local collection. On Saturday, March 23, at 11:00 a.m., the library will host an educator event, offering educators an opportunity to interact with the collection and explore ideas for how to incorporate the materials into their classroom lessons. To register for the youth workshop or educator event, email brenda.shufelt@hudsonarealibrary.org with the subject line: “Youth Workshop” or “Educator Event.”

Adding a unique and personal dimension to the exhibit, Jayden Cross, a young descendant of BLACC oral history participants, will engage in a conversation with the collection. Cross will showcase a curated personal experience, offering visitors an intimate glimpse into the collection and the broader historical context. This interactive element adds a layer of authenticity and personalization to the overall exhibition, allowing attendees to connect on a deeper level with the lived experiences embedded in the BLACC Collection.

The BLACC collection weaves together the compelling stories of Black individuals in the county, often told in their own words. Through a diverse array of images, documents, and personal narratives, the collection offers a profound glimpse into the lived experiences of the Black community over the last 120 years and more.

At the heart of this initiative is the desire to address a dearth of knowledge regarding local Black history contained in the library’s collection. The special exhibit and associated events will bring these valuable resources to the forefront of public consciousness, providing a unique opportunity for residents to engage with and learn from this rich tapestry of history.

The exhibit is designed not only to inform but also to foster a sense of connection, empathy, and respect among residents and visitors. By providing points of reference, the exhibit aims to contribute to a more complex, collaborative, cohesive, and just community ethos. The hope is that this newfound awareness will influence how visitors interact with the collection and one another, as well as shape expectations for local government, civic organizations, and business leaders as they plan for the future of all county residents.
The youth workshop will be facilitated by Jackson and two community holders of traditions that are discussed in many of the BLACC oral histories, Nkoula Badila and Zien-Celeste. Clips from the BLACC Collection and the more recent CLOVS oral history collections will be shared, followed by discussion that will ground the youth attendees in the collection and the theme of legacy. The workshop will then break into two sessions. One session, taught by Nkoula Badila, will focus on home remedies with a hands-on component. In the second session, Zien-Celeste will facilitate youth, using archival images, to choose a photo and transform its appearance through the cyanotype process. In this way, they will be able to have a creative conversation with the collection while adding to the exhibit themselves through their creations.

Finally, the library will offer an educator workshop to familiarize local public, private, home, out-of-school time, and community educators with the BLACC Oral History Project collection and help them discover how it can be used to support learning. Jackson will facilitate the event along with youth researcher Jayden Cross and Elaine Eichelberger and Brenda Shufelt, who are also assisting with research and curation for this project. The anchor for this workshop will be the information from a syllabus that was created in the 1980s as a culmination of the research and recording of oral histories for the BLACC collection. Participants will listen to clips from the BLACC and CLOVS oral histories and view examples from the research on local Black history included in the BLACC collection. Educators will then discuss how these resources can be used in their classrooms. Educators will also be introduced to various online resources, including the library's BLACC Image Collection on the History Room website, the BLACC Oral History website, the online CLOVS, the BLACC image collection on NY Heritage, and Consider the Source NY.

This program was funded in part by Humanities New York, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed through this exhibition/programming do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

1 comment:

  1. This is so wonderful, and Marcella Beigel who was the sole person responsible (in my eyes) for the birth of this project, is smiling from Heaven to see this level of interaction with the project that was so much more than just a "project" for retired seniors to work on - it encompassed something that she felt so strongly about - having these stories not only recorded, but used, it was truly her dream. Marcella was the Program Director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Columbia County for many, many years (her own story is tragic and unique) she was a visionary and someone I regarded as a mentor (I worked at COI, the lead agency for RSVP in Columbia County, many years ago, and after I left there I served on the RSVP Advisory Committee) - I remember many passionate discussions about the importance of recording these stories for future use. Bravo to the Hudson Area Library for bringing this to fruition!