More than often, I’m reminded that the work we do here at the house and archives is remarkable, simply because it’s all about the legacy of one person, one man, and legend –– Louis Armstrong. Over the span of six decades, Armstrong’s career trajectory noticeably represented that of a world renowned musician, philanthropist, activist, ambassador for his country, and even uncle.
After spending two weeks in the archives with Sarah and Ricky, I’m heading over to the house. Fortunately, I leave the archives feeling more prepared than I did when I arrived two weeks ago. Whether it be listening to lectures, cataloging materials for the collection, or assisting the researchers with finding materials, I’ve unquestionably learned more than I thought I would.
As I’ve said many times, the work that I’ve had the pleasure of doing in other museums is different from what I do at LAHM, and I think that’s what I wanted walking into this fellowship. One, to be thrown off my game. And two, being able to say, “I tried this, and I think I did well.” But rather, it’s the idea of not actually knowing, instead just going with the flow of everything.It even includes making mistakes, because I’m sure I made a few – and that’s okay with me.
However, I think it’s even more exciting that I’m able to experience other cultural institutions around the city of New York to expand my understanding of how museums work, versus how I think they should work. Crazy enough, no one museum operates under the same framework.
Very similar in its focus, but different in setup, The National Jazz Museum in Harlem is one of the institutions that I’ve been able to experience and make me rethink what museums look like. Situated off a busy avenue and on an even busier side street, the museum can easily go unnoticed. The space is small, long, and off to the side. And that’s not to say that people don’t visit, but it gave me room to reimagine how museums represent and reflect the world it lives in. Like LAHM, it’s a new experience for those who generally visit museums with big collections. For me, it was an introduction to new curatorial strategies and the power of public programing. But also, up the block is The Studio Museum in Harlem, a place I’ve always called home.
More than anything, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks working at the house in Corona. I’ve not had much experience with the front end of museums, always in the back in an office. Therefore, I think it’ll be a great experience for me to learn about this all as I move forward.
While I’ve always been focused on developing shows to help people make since of art and history, it’s going to be new for me giving tours and sharing all the information I know and learn. I get to help people experience the space, once again carrying on Armstrong’s legacy.