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.

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.

Artists and Individuals: Romare Bearden’s Funeral Program

David C. Driskell has worn many hats throughout his life: scholar, artist, collector, appraiser, curator, educator, and friend and advisor to many artists and scholars. As the Archives staff processes the David C. Driskell Papers, we are using those roles to guide the arrangement of the collection to make them easily accessible and logical for researchers.  The materials are being organized into “series,” dividing our large collection into smaller, more manageable groups that are formed based on how they were used by the creator or by their format type.

The most exciting and revealing series that the Archives staff is currently processing is called “Artists and Individuals” which is rife with correspondences between Prof. Driskell and such artists as Elizabeth Catlett, Claude Clark, and Aaron Douglas. This series provides a first-hand look at the African American artist community and relationships with many artists and scholars as well as the many newspaper clippings and catalogues he kept about them. Roughly 25% of this very large series has been processed and more is processed every day by our Graduate Assistant Molly Campbell.

What I love most about the material in “Artists and Individuals” is the communication between artists about what art means, what they like and don’t like in other artists’ work, and in this particular collection, what it is like to be an African American artist. One of the many things that makes this collection so unique is Prof. Driskell’s obvious dedication to documenting the entire scope of African American art and its importance, community, and progress throughout the 20th century.

One of the many interesting discoveries in the “Artists and Individuals” series thus far is in one of the many files on Romare Bearden that David C. Driskell kept. This should come as no surprise as Bearden was one of the most well-known African American artists and Driskell found much to admire in Bearden.  The two met briefly when Prof. Driskell was a student in the mid-1950s. The artists reconnected later in the mid-1960s and after that the two artists sparked a friendship that lasted until Bearden’s death in 1988.

Prof. Driskell’s files on Romare Bearden include a wonderful transcript of an interview that Prof. Driskell gave on his relationship with Bearden in 2001, articles both by and about Bearden, many exhibition catalogues, and correspondences between the two artists.  Among all of these things is also a program from Bearden’s funeral in 1988. Though a seemingly normal document, when I flipped the pamphlet over, I found 18 signatures of African American artists and scholars including Camille Billops, Ben Jones, Steven L. Jones, Betty Blayton, and Prof. Driskell himself, possibly collected by Prof. Driskell at the funeral.

Back panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Back panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

This document is an excellent example of the connection Professor Driskell maintained with African American artists throughout his life. Even in the midst of a sad event, Prof. Driskell continues to be a collector at heart.

To see what other interesting files we’ve processed in the “Artists and Individuals” series, visit our PastPerfect database! We upload new records each week, so continue to check back and see what we’ve been processing!

PS—We’ve added some features to the blog to allow you to easily follow along with us as we post. If you go to the main Archives Blog page, look on the right-hand side of the page and you’ll see links that let you follow us via RSS feed or by email.

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

Welcome to the Driskell Center Archives Blog!

Welcome to the blog for the Archives at the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora! The Archives staff is very excited to keep you up to date on our progress as we process the David C. Driskell Papers over the next year and a half. We’ll introduce you to the staff in the Archives, let you know what new things are happening in the Center, and hopefully provide an easily-digestible point of access into the David C. Driskell Papers. We’ll also give you a visual peek at the collection and the Archives through images of the materials and photos of the archive like the one below!


Archivist Stephanie Maxwell and Acting Executive Director of the David C. Driskell Center Prof. Curlee Holton examining a document found in the Archives which includes sketches done by David C. Driskell.

In the coming months, we will post updates every two weeks on the progress of our processing, new records that have been added to our online database, and interesting things we’re uncovering as we continue to process the collection.

The David C. Driskell Center Archive is relatively young; David C. Driskell donated his papers to the Archives in 2009. The David C. Driskell Papers are comprised of roughly 50,000 objects that span six decades and contain material about David C. Driskell as an artist, educator, curator, collector, and philanthropist. Because of his role as a promoter of the study of African American art, the papers include many unique documents important to gaining a complete understanding of the history of African American and African diaspora art and culture. The materials range from Professor Driskell’s correspondences with such artists as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett, to his personal notes on art exhibitions and events, to records detailing his time as a professor and member of various important committees. This blog will give you the insider’s look at the life and times of Professor Driskell as we continue to process his papers!

The processing of such a collection would not be possible without the generous help from the University of Maryland and several grants. Under a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS] from 2011-2012, the Processing and Policy Manuals were written, and the collection was accessioned and inventoried. Currently under a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Council on Library and Information Resources [CLIR], Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program we are working to continue processing and creating finding aids for the entire collection, finalizing our procedural manual, and making the material more accessible through PastPerfect online software and in person at our location at the University of Maryland.

Please feel free to look around our website to find out more about David C. Driskell and the David C. Driskell Center — we have a lot of exciting things happening here and hope that you can make it to some of our events and exhibitions.

Thank you for visiting us in our new blog adventure!