Major Progress in Driskell Papers

Despite the snow and wintry weather we’ve had in Maryland over the past few weeks, the David C. Driskell Center Archives staff has been hard at work. We have a lot of goals for this Spring semester, and we recently accomplished two of those goals as our Graduate Assistants Nick Beste and Molly Campbell completed processing Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora and Series 5: Artists and Individuals, respectively. These series are two of the larger ones in the David C. Driskell Papers, and Nick and Molly have worked tirelessly to organize, describe, and preserve the materials that fall into those series. I am happy to report that all the records for the materials in these series are available through our PastPerfect database and are accompanied by descriptions of the series.

Graduate Assistant Nick Beste has been processing the African American Art and Diaspora series (or AAAD as it’s referred to here in the Archives) which pulls together the various materials that Prof. Driskell collected over six decades that helped to inform his own research and lessons as well as the materials for events and exhibitions he attended and/or was invited to. I’ve written about part of this series here, focusing on the Ephemera sub-series, but this series is comprised of a lot more than just ephemera.  As a group, these materials are a great resource for studying the evolution of art and art-related events over the 60 years that Prof. Driskell collected the items. AAAD is split into four sub-series which pull together materials by their function or format:

This series as a whole gives the researcher a first-hand look at what Prof. Driskell found interesting or helpful in his studies and teachings and in his personal life.  It adds a layer of connection to the Driskell Papers.

Our Graduate Assistant Molly Campbell has been working on arranging and describing the Artists and Individuals series since she started working at the Driskell Center Archives. Easily the most complicated and difficult series to process, she’s done a wonderful job making the correspondence that Prof. Driskell has had with various artists, scholars, and individuals in the art community accessible and easy to find. I’ve written about some of the wonderful things to be found in the Artists and Individuals series here, here, here, and here, and in the next few weeks Molly will be writing a post about her experience processing the series and some of the interesting things she found while she was doing it.

As Spring Break approaches, we are in good shape to achieve our goals for this semester. Molly has started arranging Series 2: Educator, which concentrates on Prof. Driskell’s role as a professor, and I have begun to enter information into PastPerfect about the records we have on his role as a curator from Series 3: Exhibitions.  And as these paper materials start coming together, we’ll begin looking at our Audio/Visual and Photographic Materials!

Thank you for staying tuned to the news on the David C. Driskell Papers—it’s a very exciting time here, and we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing many of you as you use the collection!

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

David C. Driskell at Fisk University’s The Carl Van Vechten Gallery

Welcome back to the David C. Driskell Archives Blog! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. We’ve had a nice break over the holidays and the Archives Staff is looking forward to bringing you more interesting tidbits from the David C. Driskell Papers in 2014!

Before the break, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with David C. Driskell at his beautiful home in Hyattsville. Though I had met Prof. Driskell in person before, our conversations had all been very brief; but during this meeting, we were able to discuss the Driskell Papers at length. I updated him on the progress we’re making and asked some important questions that will help us to be able to better understand and present the collection.

Prof. Driskell was kind enough to answer my questions about some of the records that I’ve been working on in the Exhibitions series, one of which touched on his role at Fisk University. Prof. Driskell was a Professor of Art and Chairman of the Department of Art at Fisk University from 1966-1977, during which time he curated several exhibitions at The Carl Van Vechten Gallery. Many of the exhibition catalogues in Driskell Paper from Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Gallery have an Introduction or Foreword by Prof. Driskell, but few of them explicitly mention a curator. I asked about his role in the exhibitions and he said that for a gallery such as The Carl Van Vechten Gallery during that time and with limited staff, it was often the role of the curator to write the catalogue, curate the show, and do much of the administrative work and planning that goes along with mounting an exhibition. Though many of the exhibitions were on a smaller scale than some of the others he curated later in his career, the effort it must have taken to produce these exhibitions while being a full-time professor must have been one of great dedication and time. His explanation was eye-opening to me, providing information on the role of gallery’s director and curator.

After speaking with Prof. Driskell about this aspect of his career, I found this item in the Driskell Papers:


Left photograph: a compilation of twenty-one of the 5-10 page exhibition catalogues that were products of the shows that Prof. Driskell curated or where his art was featured while he was at Fisk University. Right photograph: an example of one of these catalogues. (“Afro-American Art Series 1966-1976 David C. Driskell Fisk University” (1966-1976). David C. Driskell Papers: Exhibitions, David C. Driskell Center Archive. Photograph courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center.

The photograph above shows the exhibition catalogues for exhibitions that Prof. Driskell was involved in at Fisk University during his time there. The David C. Driskell Papers hold these and other exhibition catalogues which are great resources for those who want to see how Prof. Driskell’s curatorial career developed as well as for those who are interested in the evolution of exhibitions on African American art and artists. What is clear from this collection is that during his time at Fisk University, Prof. Driskell was able to really begin to hone his curatorial skills and present exhibitions on African American artists to the greater public.

Speaking of exhibitions, we’re looking forward to the opening of the exhibition Charles White – Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten. The Archives will have a display in the gallery that will accompany this powerful exhibition, so please come by and check it out! The exhibition opens on January 30, 2014 with a reception at 5:00PM.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Reflections on 2013 in the David C. Driskell Center Archives

December is a time when I like to reflect on the past year, so I have been thinking about what we have accomplished, what still needs to be done, and how we can improve our work in the David C. Driskell Archive.  I am very happy with the way things have been progressing with the David C. Driskell Papers: our Graduate Assistants Nick Beste and Molly Campbell have worked diligently to process several series within the Papers, we have streamlined our processes as we continue on with our project, and we have achieved many of our goals for 2013. One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is the online availability of records for several of our series and sub-series, including:

Series 3: Exhibitions, Sub-Series 4: Personal Art Collection
Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora, Sub-Series 2: Ephemera
Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora, Sub-Series 3: Exhibition Catalogues
Series 5: Artists and Individuals (which will be completely processed by the end of January 2014)
Series 8: Organizations

I am very excited to see what 2014 will bring and I hope that you continue to follow us here on the blog as we update you on new and exciting finds, alert you to the newest materials available for research, and highlight interesting aspects of David C. Driskell’s life.

As the year comes to a close, I hope that you’ll look back at some of our posts. Some of the ones that really put the David C. Driskell Papers into perspective for me have been “‘An Idyll of the Deep South’ and David C. Driskell’s Discussion with Aaron Douglas,” “David C. Driskell as Mentor and Mentee,” and “Artists and Individuals: Romare Bearden’s Funeral Program.”

As we move forward with processing the David C. Driskell Papers, our staff will work to provide even more posts and updates that inform and enlighten. We would love to hear from you about what you have found interesting or what you’d like to see in the coming year, so please feel free to leave comments on this post!

The David C. Driskell Archives staff wishes you and yours a happy, healthy, and enjoyable holiday season! We look forward to continuing to blog after the holidays in January 2014.

PS: Stay tuned to the David C. Driskell Center website to hear about our upcoming exhibition Charles White – Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten, which opens on January 30, 2014. The Archives will be putting together a display similar to what we produced for the Alison Saar: Still exhibition, so we’ll post about that soon!

PPS: The David C. Driskell Center will be closed from December 24, 2013 through January 1, 2014. The Center will reopen on January 2, 2014 at 9:00AM.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.