“Partner with a university or classroom,” and share your historical stories with students advised Dr. Ida Jones, University Archivist at Morgan State University and former Assistant Curator of Manuscripts at Howard University’s Moorland Spingarn Research Center. Jones served as the consultant panelist at the November 17 “How to Preserve Your Legacy” workshop at the Alexandria Black History Museum’s Watson Reading Room.
Before sharing her two other major suggestions, Jones talked about how some “screenagers,” or youth who are too often tied to their cell phone screens, yearn to learn from those who have lived through the times they only have seen on YouTube. Jones says such youth often have breadth of understanding, but very little depth and that recorders of history, such as those at the workshop, could help fill in their gaps of knowledge.
The hour-long program started with panelist photographer Phil Portlock, early George Washington University computer graduate Cherryl Neill Humphreys, and entrepreneur Vernard Gray sharing a snippet about their own projects, what initiated their interest in preservation, and its significance to them.
Neill Humphreys expressed concern about “telling and preserving her own story.” Portlock shared how he saw Dr. King days before he was assassinated, but he did not have his camera with him to capture the moment. He has since vowed, “to never be without my camera.” And Gray said, “my parents started me on placing value on sharing” and those values motivate much of my business and cultural efforts.
The three shared a common thread as recorders of history said Jones, the author of four biographies including the upcoming "Baltimore Civil Rights Leader, Victorine Quille Adams and the Power of the Ballot." “They are busy living life,” washing dishes, picking up groceries, and washing clothes, versus spending all their time preserving their legacy, she continued.
Jones, secondly, suggested that the three panelists visit archives and see if any of them are interested in cataloging and preserving their collections for future researchers. Portlock, who served as the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (WMATA) chief photographer from 1989 until his retirement in 2003, has his WMATA images catalogued and archived at George Washington University. “At least they are not in WMATA’s basement collecting dust,” he sighed.