AAHC Forum: Improving Education and Collections

This post is a part of the AAHC Forum. In the coming months we will invite current and past grantees to contribute their project experiences via blog posts on our UpNext Blog and then ask you to respond through the AAHC Virtual Forum. We hope you will add your voice and share your needs and opinions so that AAHC can continue to help African American museums thrive. Please visit the AAHC forum to continue the conversation.

Introduction: The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center will implement a strategic plan focusing on the creation of a viable education department, creation of a collections management plan, and professional development. IMLS funds will enable the museum to carry out these strategic goals by employing a full-time museum educator; establish staff training in collection cataloging and management; and provide continued professional development in museum-specific skills and nonprofit management.

By Dion Brown and James McWilliams
B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

The Mississippi Delta is a region stricken with “unders.” The residents are underserved, underprivileged, and undermined. The local school district is under conservatorship and has an academic ranking of “D.” Many students fail to pass state-level testing requirements and do not graduate. Often these students opt to take the GED or take minimum-wage jobs, and the poverty cycle continues.

With a 2012 IMLS Museum Grant for African American History and Culture, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center (BBKM) will be better able to improve education in Sunflower County, Mississippi, the heart of Mr. King’s vision for the museum. The grant allowed us to hire a Director of Education and devote more attention to supporting the local school district in its efforts to increase the accountability rating of the school district. Staffing this position has allowed us to develop sustainable education and public programming.

Dion Brown and James McWilliams examine a piece in the museum's collection.

Dion Brown and James McWilliams examine a piece in the museum’s collection.

The IMLS grant has provided us with the opportunity to work with a consultant who is tasked with incorporating the state’s curriculum into the museum’s exhibit. When the local schools tour the exhibit, the students are not just going on a field trip. The teacher can actually plan lessons for reading, history, math, and the arts. The curriculum is divided into three clusters: the life of B.B. King, music itself, and performance. We are excited about our exhibit being used as a resource to teachers.

The final component of the IMLS grant is the processing and cataloging of our collections and the implementation of a permanent cataloging system. With the help of Archival & Historical Research Associates (AHRA), a work plan was developed with three main objectives in mind: to create a permanent finding aid for each collection in the archives, to create a permanent cataloging system that could be developed into a digital archive, and to train museum staff and interns in archival procedures. Currently the staff is working with a consultant to complete the first phase of the cataloging process. The collections and cataloging project will result in a qualified and knowledgeable collections staff, an organized and comprehensive collection of materials about the life and legacy of B.B. King and the Mississippi Delta, and an accessible archive that can be used by the community as well as researchers and scholars worldwide.

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