By Quantia Fletcher
Assistant Director, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
In the museum world, whether you’re the tiniest of the tiny, or the size of a Walmart, at one point or another, you’ve likely made a wish for more staff to fall from the heavens to make life a little easier.
At the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (MTCC) in Little Rock, Ark., where I serve, there never seems to be a shortage of demand for what we do—which is a good thing! As we celebrate our fifth anniversary this year, we are thrilled that the community has responded so positively to our museum and its programs and services.
When we first applied for an IMLS grant, we had big dreams for all that we would be able to do with the funding. We dreamed of big partnerships, projects, and oh the places we would go! At some point, however, practicality set in. More than we needed new exhibits or more programming, more staff was needed. With just a couple additional staff members, we realized we could make an even greater impact in our efforts to tell the story of African Americans in Arkansas.
One area we saw an immediate need was in the Isaac Scott Hathaway Collection, our largest collection, which desperately needed cataloging. An educator and artist best known for creating more than 100 busts and masks of prominent African Americans, Hathaway was the first black to design a coin for the U.S. Mint. He taught for more than twenty years at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in the college’s Art (Ceramics) Department. We are so grateful that the IMLS award has allowed us to hire someone who is fully dedicated to cataloging this impressive collection.
Our education department also deserved added human resources. MTCC is responsible for serving the entire state of Arkansas with education outreach, but prior to receiving IMLS funding, our efforts to adequately meet the state’s needs were severely hampered due to a lack of staff.
The IMLS grant is allowing us to shine at our mission of collecting, preserving, interpreting and celebrating black history. Our two newest staff members have been aboard now for four months, but the impact they have made in such a short amount of time makes it feel as if it’s been longer. (Now, if only we could get about three more IMLS grants!)
When I first started at MTCC, getting an IMLS grant was a pie-in-the-sky goal. Now that we have received our first award, the success tastes pretty sweet! Don’t think that your staff or your museum can’t do the same thing. I encourage all those who are looking to expand and grow to apply, apply, apply!
New Orleans-bred Quantia “Key” M. Fletcher earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in folklife and southern culture from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. She worked for the Department of Interior with the National Park Service for four years before joining the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center staff in 2007 as Director of Education. Currently, she is MTCC’s Assistant Director and teaches with the University of Phoenix.