Community Kicks Off Contributions
Update: As of November 2020, the website is live! Please visit africanamericanhorsestories.org
Post Date: April 18, 2019
The IMH held its first History Harvest on Saturday, April 13 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington, KY. The event was a success, with people from Lexington’s East End community and beyond gathering for a common purpose. Here is a brief recap of what we did, learned, hope to improve on, and have planned for the collections.
The museum staff spent months identifying the best practices for conducting community digitization days and developing procedures. The event was publicized through the press, word-of-mouth, community partners, and targeted outreach to interested organizations and individuals. While we may not have reached everyone that we would have liked to reach, the turn-out showed that participants heard about the event through their church, their friends, and other grassroots contacts.
Eleven individuals dropped in during the morning, each one with valuable information and contributions. Their participation varied from just stopping in to talk with people they know to digitizing family heirlooms. Some examples of the items brought in include family photos, important family documents, newspaper articles, and artwork. Some people came to the History Harvest without any items but with a wealth of knowledge and life experiences to share. We look forward to them returning in May, with their friends and colleagues to record their anecdotes.
IMH Graphic Designer James Shambu captures a copy of a fragile photograph taken in 1949, brought in by contributor Sherman Greene.
Individual attention proved to be very important to the participants, and we were excited to have the opportunity to provide this. It was rewarding to meet people and connect over their history and life experiences. We are grateful to each person who shared their stories with us and allowed us to listen as they shared stories with each other.
Alongside professional museum staff, very knowledgeable volunteers greeted people as they registered and completed paperwork, and held meaningful conversations with them about the photos and documents they brought. Certain items were scanned on flatbed scanners while more fragile and larger items were photographed to be included on the new website. In addition, each participant received a thumb drive with copies of their files to take home in order to help them further preserve their history for generations.
Community historian Yvonne Giles (left) talks with contributor Severa Jacobs with paperwork while volunteer Percy Thomas and IMH Director Amy Beisel digitize photos and family documents.
In retrospect there are always things we can learn from and improve upon in order to make experiences better at the next event. Capturing stories that are so integral to completing the picture of African Americans in the horse industry is like hitting a moving target. We’d love to know more about all the people, places, and horses that got mentioned in those rich conversations we were so lucky to be a part of. Creating the space to sit down and talk with a recorder running is on the agenda for May 18, but we also realize there are so many valuable details said while photos are being scanned or people are just mingling. We are working toward a method to capture notes as they are spoken.
Volunteers Thomas Tolliver (left) and Beverly Fortune join University of Kentucky student Brittany Sparks (middle) and IMH Education Coordinator Ashlee Chilton at the Conversation Station.
For example, Mrs. Jacobs shared her father’s history, Charles Carlos Miyares, as a groom who emigrated from Cuba. However, we also learned that her mother’s family owned and operated the track kitchen at one of the tracks her father worked at regularly. Her mother worked in the track kitchen as well. This is where she met Mr. Miyares, who she eventually married and had children with, thus blessing us with Mrs. Jacobs.
The purpose of the History Harvest is to prepare items and stories for inclusion on the Chronicle website, which is in the early phases of development. While the website is being built, the relationships and content are also being built. Digital files created at the April 13 event are safely stored at the museum and we are reviewing all the information in order to know it better. We anticipate incorporating the items into the website architecture later this year, and we will stay in touch with participants so they will know when they can see their contributions as part of the Chronicle online.
Another History Harvest is planned for May 18 from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm that includes access to the Lyric Theatre’s recording space for oral histories. Participants can sign up for an appointment by calling the 859-259-4279 or emailing [email protected]
The museum will hold a Shareback Session on Thursday, June 13, 6:00-7:00 pm at the Lexington Central Library, Conference Room A. All History Harvest participants and the public are invited to learn about the discoveries made at both the April and May events. At this presentation, we will share more about how your information will be used, the information gathering process, and the collections gathered so far, and give updates on the Chronicle project’s progress.
Special thanks for the support provided by the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, Phoenix Rising Lex, and Third Street Stuff and Coffee.