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.

“Narratives” in the Archive

Last week, I finished processing Series 3: Exhibitions, Sub-Series 4: Personal Art Collection into our PastPerfect database. This sub-series pulls together records of exhibitions which focus on David Driskell’s private art collection.

The Personal Art Collection sub-series houses materials relating to the exhibition Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection which was curated by The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland in 1998 and traveled to various institutions including the High Museum of Art and The Newark Museum through 2004. The Narratives exhibition showcased highlights of Prof. Driskell’s extensive art collection. Since Prof. Driskell is a knowledgeable and discerning art collector, Narratives was an extraordinary exhibition that pulled together works by some of the most influential and well-known African American artists from Edward Mitchell Bannister to Elizabeth Catlett to Romare Bearden and others. Though Prof. Driskell did not curate the exhibition, he was involved with planning, informal editing, and consulting on the exhibition and the catalogue. His records on Narratives include correspondence with various employees at The Art Gallery and museum directors from the institutions the exhibition traveled to, ephemera produced by The Art Gallery and traveling institutions, project plans and timelines, and information on the artwork displayed.

Ephemera from "Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection" (1998-1999): Box 4, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Exhibitions (Personal Art Collection), David C. Driskell Archive.

Ephemera from “Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection” (1998-1999): Box 4, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Exhibitions (Personal Art Collection), David C. Driskell Archive.

Some of the most interesting records in this sub-series are the curatorial files, many of which include articles and research, handwritten notes by the gallery staff and contributors to the exhibition catalogue, and edits to the catalogue entries by Prof. Driskell himself. The most interesting aspect of these files is the development of the exhibition, the various events that surrounded it, and the reactions of the public and press. The sub-series is interesting and informative because it is a great example of how Prof. Driskell has promoted the study and appreciation of African American Art. You can see the online version of the exhibition here and can purchase the exhibition catalogue through the David C. Driskell Center here.

In more news about our processing progress news, Nick continues to work on the Ephemera sub-series, Molly is getting closer to completing the processing for Artists and Individuals, and I am starting to tackle the sub-series documenting the many exhibitions Prof. Driskell curated.  The Archives staff is looking forward to working on the objects that we have left and telling you more about them as we find more interesting and unique things.

From the entire staff at the David C. Driskell Archives, we are wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

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

The Lasting Effect of David C. Driskell

                In my last post, I talked about David C. Driskell’s relationship with his mentor James A. Porter, who played a big role in Prof. Driskell’s life, both personally and professionally. While that post focused on Prof. Driskell’s role as a mentee, some of his students, colleagues, and artists remember him as a mentor.

One former student with whom Prof. Driskell maintained a relationship is Jefferson Pinder. Pinder received his MFA in Painting and Mixed Media from the Department of Art at the University of Maryland in 2003 From 1999-2003, Pinder was Prof. Driskell’s assistant and was also the first Fellowship Recipient in Art from the David C. Driskell Center in 2002-2003. Pinder was an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, from 2005-2011 and is currently an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Pinder is an active artist who has artwork at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Studio Museum of Harlem, High Museum of Art, and other galleries and museums.

In 1995, Pinder sent a postcard to Prof. Driskell from New Orleans telling him about his travels and how he had visited sites that were discussed in a class that Prof. Driskell taught. 

Below is the postcard from Jefferson Pinder.

Postcard from Jefferson Pinder (1995): Box 36, Folder T-139-27. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Postcard from Jefferson Pinder (1995): Box 36, Folder T-139-27. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Later, in a Digital Video project that he created in 2009 entitled Lazarus, Pinder is wearing a suit previously owned by Prof. Driskell’s father which Prof. Driskell featured in his 1987 work I Have Always Been an Outsider. This is just an example of the ways in which Prof. Driskell’s impression as a mentor continued to influence his students. It is this effort to remember the faces, to correspond with former students, and to encourage others that makes Prof. Driskell such a unique and beloved man.

This past weekend, I was reminded of that when I participated in the symposium “American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora” which was hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Prof. Driskell lectured about the influence that African culture and ideas have had on his art throughout his career. Seeing Prof. Driskell speak was a great experience. It reminded me how interesting and multifaceted his career has been and gave life to the records that we are preserving in the David C. Driskell Archive.  

                If you have any memories of Prof. David Driskell acting as a mentor or counselor we would love to hear from you. Please comment on this post with your own memories.

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