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A grant from the UNCF/Mellon Programs will allow Tuskegee University’s Legacy Museum to host its second UNCF/Mellon Teaching and Learning Institute this September. The $35,000 grant will include five UNCF HBCU institutions, their mentors and students — all participating in a three-day institute focused on the fundamentals of preventive technical art history and introducing African-American cultural heritage preservation.
Dr. Jontyle Robinson, the university’s curator of both its Legacy Museum and Albert Murray exhibition in the Ford Motor Company Library and Resource Center, will coordinate this year’s institute. She also coordinated the 2016 UNCF/Mellon Teaching and Learning Institute, themed “Forging Directions and Solidifying our Bases: Eighteen HBCUs with Museums and Galleries” — out of which the Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries Inc. arose.
Robinson said Tuskegee’s position in the institute is noteworthy, as UNCF was founded by its third president, Dr. Frederick D. Patterson.
“UNCF fosters the concept that, working together, we can assist our students to do more than just attend college, but help them thrive, graduate and become leaders,” Robinson explained. “It is so important that these ideas emanated from Tuskegee University; therefore, when we were awarded funds from UNCF/Mellon, it is doubly impactful.”
The UNCF/Mellon institute will discuss fundamental concepts in technical art history and train African Americans how to preserve their cultural artifacts. The institute will include a diverse group of conservators who will bring different life experiences, other cultural perspectives, and broader social networks to bear on the cultural heritage that is preserved.
“According to Sanchita Balachandran, we must confront the reality that conservators preserve not only the physical aspects of objects, but also the histories, memories and legacies those objects represent,” Robinson noted. “Unlike the factual or tangible aspects of objects, these intangible aspects are all the more fragile and subject to be changed or lost if we are not attentive to them.”
The series will highlight the importance of environmental monitoring and proper housing of cultural objects, as well as discussing the different avenues for accessing additional resources and simple, noninvasive changes that can be applied at the participants’ home institutions. At the institute’s conclusion, participants will be able to articulate examples of how the technical study of a collection piece’s materiality can aid in its historical and artistic interpretation.
Participating HBCU’s will include Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee; Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia; Tougaloo (Mississippi) College; and Xavier University of (New Orleans) Louisiana, —each of which will bring two students. The agreement through the UNCF and Andrew F. Mellon Foundation partnership will also include three Yale University cultural institutions, which will further aid in the survival and continued scholarship of African-American material culture. The agreement includes the Yale University Art Gallery, the oldest university art gallery in the United States; the Yale Center for British Art; and the Yale University Libraries.
Institute facilitators from Tuskegee University will include Dr. Vivian Carter, department head, the Department of Psychology and Sociology; and Kwesi Daniels, department head and assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science. Four facilitators from Yale will include Mark Aronson, chief conservator, Yale Center for British Art and chair of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage Conservation Lab, Yale University; Tara Kennedy, preservation services librarian and preventive issues agent for the Yale University Libraries; Cynthia Schwarz, senior associate conservator of paintings, Yale University Art Gallery; and Madison Washington, postgraduate associate with the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.
UNCF/Mellon Programs were created in 1989 with a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Designed with the goal of strengthening the number of qualified minority faculty within the Academy, UNCF/Mellon programs target undergraduates and faculty at a consortium of 37 UNCF institutions and Hampton University. For more information on UNCF/Mellon Programs, visit https://uncfmellon.org/.
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