Greetings everybody, hard to imagine but, already I have made it more than halfway through the LAHM fellowship. A lot has happened since I first started and I felt that it would be a good time to reflect on some of the highlights of this experience.
My whole motivation for applying to this wonderful opportunity was to immerse myself within the realm of public history and archival materials. It was the unique combination of working at dual sites that attracted me to the LAHM fellowship. The historic house museum in particular is one of the most engaging aspects of the fellowship. There are many things that can be said but chief amongst them is interacting with the visitors. The Louis Armstrong House Museum receives over 18,000 visitors each year and many are international travelers from all over; there isn’t one place that stands out the most but, it never ceases to amaze me just how many people travel hundreds of miles to visit the house of Louis Armstrong.
At this point I have given way too many tours to count but, perhaps some of my favorites are the various school groups that come to visit Louis’ home. From 1stgraders all the way to college students, it is impressive to see the same look of wonder and amazement on people’s faces as they are simultaneously learning and absorbing the physical space of the home. That aspect is one of the main reasons that I fell in love with Public History; having the benefit to share history outside of a classroom with curious individuals.
Outside of the tons of people that come to check the museum daily, one of the highlights was being able to research, write and present my own tour. I chose to highlight the theme of community, how it shaped and impacted Louis Armstrong by connecting the two places he called home: New Orleans and Corona. The event went extremely well for our museum members and afterwards everybody ate Gumbo and Red Beans and Rice, truly it was a great experience.
The fellowship was also come with some pretty spectacular events. Already I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Louis Armstrong Symposium which celebrated 50 years of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation and more recently Jazz Congress, which was held at the famous Jazz at Lincoln Center. The main highlight at Jazz Congress for me was the panel entitled Jazz Shrines: Homes, Studios, and Preserving the Heritage. This panel explored historic jazz sites and the compacities they exist in today; it was both informative and interesting to see more examples of the intersection of jazz and Public History.
New York City itself is one of the real rewards that I am able to enjoy during my time as a LAHM fellow. The city is never lacking in forms of entertainment, which for me usually consist of seeing the many museums, historic sites and the awesome selection of places to eat, especially in Queens. Adjusting to a place that is such a stark contrast from the south wasn’t as jarring as I expected but, full disclosure, I prefer the warmer weather back home over the NYC winter.
At LAHM I’ve also been fortunate to have a great team of people to work with both at the archives and at the museum. I feel that not all educational fellowships provide a unique setting and great people. However, I’ve been able to truly value and appreciate the people I work with and learn many things from their experience and knowledge in the various capacities that make up institutions such as ours.
I could continue on about LAHM but things here are consistently moving and in the near future I will surely have a lot more to share about my time and experiences here.