“Robert Blackburn: Passages” and the Driskell Center Library

Two weeks ago, the Driskell Center celebrated the opening of the important exhibition Robert Blackburn: Passages which is open to the public in the gallery until Friday, December 19, 2014. The opening reception was a wonderful event, welcoming guest speakers Faith Ringgold and Mel Edwards and allowing the friends of the Driskell Center to admire the works of Robert Blackburn, an artist previously unrecognized for his contribution to American art. The exhibition is wide-ranging and represents not only Robert Blackburn’s work, but also an additional thirteen works by Blackburn’s colleagues—including teachers, friends and students.

As I mentioned in my last post, there is no correspondence in the Driskell Papers between Blackburn and David C. Driskell. Though there is no display as we have traditionally done in the past for exhibitions, the research component of the Driskell Center is represented in an exciting, interactive way. Throughout the run of Robert Blackburn: Passages, visitors will be able to sit and browse through a selection of books on printmaking and Robert Blackburn, presented on a table in the center of the gallery. These books and pamphlets were pulled from the Driskell Center Library which is housed in a room within the Driskell Center office space. The display in the gallery includes two books from the Driskell Center’s Library collection including Printmaking in America: Collaborative Prints and Presses, 1960-1990, Will Barnet / Bob Blackburn: An Artistic Friendship In Relief , and two pamphlets Robert Blackburn: Master Artist – Master Painter, Detwiller Visiting Artist February 27-March 27, 1994 and Campaign for Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop. Interested visitors can leisurely browse through these books and learn more about printmaking and Robert Blackburn as an artist and mentor.

David C. Driskell Center. Catalogues and books available for viewing during the "Robert Blackburn: Passages" exhibition. Fall 2014.

David C. Driskell Center. Catalogues and books available for viewing during the “Robert Blackburn: Passages” exhibition. Fall 2014.

David C. Driskell Center Gallery. "Robert Blackburn: Passages" exhibition. Fall 2014.

David C. Driskell Center Gallery. “Robert Blackburn: Passages” exhibition. Fall 2014.

The Library’s collection of roughly 4,000 books has been collected over the course of 12 years by the Driskell Center staff and also includes selections from Prof. Driskell’s personal library as well as from Dr. Robert Steele’s personal library. This collection of resources reflects the research needs and purposes of the Driskell Center. The collection of books, exhibition catalogues, journals, and magazines focuses on African American art, American art, artists, and art history, following the mission of the Center. The Driskell Center staff has been using this collection to inform research and publicity for developing its exhibitions, collections, and scholarly events; it is a generally useful resource, which we wanted to share with our visitors as well.

Currently, our staff is working to catalog these books and make their records available and searchable to the public through our PastPerfect website. Books are cataloged under “Library” and can be found through keyword searches in the online search function here. More books are being added to the catalog every week, so continue to check back for updates! The non-circulating Library is open to researchers by appointment during office hours Monday-Friday.

Visiting the Driskell Center to see the Robert Blackburn: Passages exhibition is worth finding the time for, and we hope that you’ll come and learn a little about printmaking and the impact that Blackburn had on the art community!

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

Summer 2014 Progress on the Driskell Papers

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to the blog, but so many things are happening here in the David C. Driskell Center Archive that it’s been hard to keep up! Here is an update on what is new in the Archives.

Over the past few weeks, we have gotten some new windows in the Driskell Center which kept us busy packing up the boxes that hold the Driskell Papers and storing them in our conference room so that they are protected from the construction. Though we still have access to the boxes, we’re hoping to get them back in the Archive in the next few weeks.

One of our Graduate Assistants, Nick Beste, has found a full time job as an Archivist in Arkansas where he’ll be processing collections for the National Park Service. We had to say goodbye to him a few weeks ago, but we know that his time at the Driskell Center prepared him for life as a professional Archivist and we wish him all the best! Before he left, though, Nick worked hard to process Series 10: Audio and Video Materials, Sub-Series 1: Audio Recordings. This sub-series includes cassette tapes, minicassettes, and audio reels that are recordings of David C. Driskell’s lectures and interviews. In the coming months, we will also be processing Series 10: Audio and Video Materials, Sub-Series 2: Video Recordings which includes VHS tapes and reel-to-reel films of interviews, lectures, colloquia, and films that have accompanied exhibitions. The potential of these materials is great and we are looking forward to delving into this sub-series more.
Though Nick has moved on, our other Graduate Assistant, Molly Campbell, has been hard at work. Since the last blog post, Molly has completely processed all of Series 2: Educator which focuses on Prof. Driskell’s life as a professor, mainly at Fisk University and the University of Maryland, though he also held adjunct and shorter-term positions at various universities around the world. This series is made up of five sub-series including: Sub-Series 1: Fisk University, Sub-Series 2: University of Maryland, Sub-Series 3: Other Institutions, Sub-Series 4: College and University Catalogs, and Sub-Series 5: Miscellaneous. These records are available on PastPerfect online and are open for research.

Another exciting project that has gained some traction this summer is the cataloging of the Driskell Center’s research library collection into PastPerfect. The Driskell Center has an extensive library of over 2,000 books, exhibition catalogues, and journals which focuses on African American art and culture and is constantly being updated. This resource is a valuable one for researchers whose interests coincide with the Driskell Center’s mission. Previously, the records of these books were kept in an Access database, available only to the Driskell Center staff. The staff has since decided to catalog them in PastPerfect, thereby making the records available online. This project is ongoing and new records will be made available through PastPerfect online each week.

As summer is getting to its peak, we are looking forward to meeting some of our processing goals and preparing for the fall which will include an Archives display accompanying the exhibition Robert Blackburn: Passages which opens on Thursday, September 18, 2014.

Look for a post in the coming weeks about some of the interesting things we are finding in the series that Molly is now working on (Series 1: Personal) and more updates!

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