Hampton University
Hampton University Professors Working to Preserve African American Papers in Williamsburg
03/15/2017 - #173

HAMPTON, Va. —  Hampton University professors Maureen Elgersman Lee and Robert C. Watson have received a 2017 Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund the “Preserving African American Material Cultural in Williamsburg”, project.  Under the NEH program, HU will work with the Williamsburg Regional Library to deliver free public programming for the preservation of African American materials.

"Personal and organizational papers are some of the most vulnerable historical materials in the African American community,” said Dr. Elgersman Lee. “When family members pass away, for example, there is often a preference for photos and three-dimensional objects over papers.  As historians, we often find out about collections after materials have been discarded. Letters, meeting minutes, diaries--they are all so very important."

The NEH Common Heritage Program recognizes that members of the public—in partnership with libraries, museums, archives, and historical organizations—have much to contribute to the understanding of our cultural mosaic. Together, such institutions and the public can be effective partners in the appreciation and stewardship of our common heritage. The NEH Common Heritage Grant will fund a year-long pilot project designed to raise public awareness about the importance of preserving African American material culture, with an emphasis on private papers. The project’s public programming includes two March informational sessions about the project, two digitization events in May and June wherein the public can have private papers scanned and saved on flash drives; and a final December community briefing and celebration on the results of the project.

Elgersman Lee is an associate professor of History and chairs the department of Political Science and History. Watson is an associate professor of History in the department of Political Science and History.

The public is invited to information sessions that will be conducted at two Williamsburg Regional Library facilities. The meetings will be held on Saturday, March 18, 2017, from 2:00-3:30 pm in the Kitzinger Community Room, James City County Library, 7770 Croaker Road, and on March 25, 2017, from 1:00-2:30 pm, Williamsburg Library Theatre, Williamsburg Library, 515 Scotland Street.

Inquiries about the events and the larger project should be directed to Maureen Elgersman Lee at 757.728.6853 or via email at maureen.elgersmanlee@hamptonu.edu.


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