As we continue processing the David C. Driskell Papers, I love finding objects that at first glance are seemingly ordinary, only to have been made unique by David C. Driskell. These types of objects have been found throughout the collection, but as our Graduate Assistant Nick Beste processes the series African American Art and Diaspora, we continue to find additional treasures. Split into four sub-series, African American Art and Diaspora pulls together the many exhibition catalogues, ephemera, and files that Prof. Driskell kept on various artists and subjects within the fields of art and African American studies. This series allows us to get a view of the exhibitions and events that Prof. Driskell was interested in and what he found valuable in his research.
Nick has completed processing Sub-Series 3: Exhibition Catalogues, which contains catalogues that Prof. Driskell collected ranging in dates from 1901-2010. Nick has now moved on to organizing Sub-Series 2: Ephemera; ephemera is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “things that are important or useful for only a short time; items that were not meant to have lasting value.” Ephemera showcase printed material that was originally meant to be transitory but often present an interesting resource. The Driskell Papers collection of ephemera includes invitations to events and exhibitions, exhibition announcements, brochures, newsletters, and newspaper clippings among other items.
As we began sorting through the ephemera, one of the treasures we found was a program from a concert held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC –presented in collaboration with the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences and The National Academies’ African American History Program—which Prof. Driskell attended on February 14, 2010. The concert featured the Ritz Chamber Players performing pieces by Mozart, Anderson, Villa-Lobos, and Dvorak. Upon initial inspection, the program seems generic, but when you open the program to the first page, an insight into Prof. Driskell’s artistic and ever-active mind is revealed:
These ink sketches feature musicians with their string instruments, presumably the musicians featured in the concert (if you look closely at the left-hand sketch, you can see Prof. Driskell has written “Amadi” which is the first name of the musician Amadi Azikiwe who performed that day). Looking closely at the sketches, you can also see the leaves and nature that surrounds the musicians. Even in an indoor setting, Prof. Driskell brings one of his signature themes—nature—to his work.
This is what is so wonderful about the David C. Driskell Papers—something seemingly ordinary turned into a work of art! We found a lot of interesting things while doing our initial organizing of the sub-series. As Nick takes a more in-depth look at the materials, I’m sure we’ll find additional fascinating objects. This particular part of the collection is a great resource that allows the researcher a view into the life of David Driskell not only as an artist or a curator, but also as an appreciator of and participant in art and culture.
This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.
 Definition from Merriam-Websters Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemera