Let’s Talk: Artist, Archives and Museums

Here’s the update: I, along with my fellow Fellow Maglyn Bertrand, have been working with the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archives for eleven months now. We’ve almost made a year of what was originally only a ten-month-long fellowship. It has transformed into a catalyst of adventuring and exploring the life and career of one of the most iconic Jazz musicians to walk this earth.

As I’m sure my readers know by now, I am an artist. With all that I do I am constantly looking for innovative ways to make things comprehensible to my realm of artistry; hence why my posts have taken on various forms in the past. Now that we are beginning to prepare to open the House Museum, we are looking at how many other institutions have opened and are in the process of reopening. Our task has been to attempt a form of understanding what it means to inhabit museum spaces like our own and have conversations with those that work or frequent them in some capacity. 

Since my main language of communication comes from the realm of visual art, my first thought is tackling what it means to have artists working in and with museums and archives. In the past, I have worked with archival materials as a source to create artworks that speak to history and its relevance in today’s world. Being at the Louis Armstrong house has offered me the time to explore parts of history from the vantage of a man who lived through six decades of events. I have also been able to indulge in the various forms that our museum has opened its doors to artists, offering them the chance to reinterpret Louis’ life through the museum itself and his personal archive.

One institution that tackles the conversation of artist and archives is the Studio Museum in Harlem. In a panel discussion that took place December of 2020, the concept of “Black Visual Archives” was tackled by five of the nation’s top African American arts museum directors and curators. It speaks to history collector verses history preservers and what the differences can be for artist tackling the concept of working with museum and archives to be a part of this canon.

I took a moment to ask a mentor and friend of mine Justin Randolph Thompson about his practice and how he has incorporated museum and archival research into his daily life and work. Justin Randolph Thompson is a new media artist, cultural facilitator and educator born in Peekskill, NY in ’79. Living between Italy and the US since 1999, Thompson is Co-Founder and Director of Black History Month Florence, a multi-faceted exploration of African and African Diasporic cultures in the context of Italy founded in 2016.



Below is the result of that conversation. 

In the next few months, my goal is to have conversations with artists, scholars, and various other museum staff that have knowledge and interest in the conversation of a visual archive as interpreted through the work of artist today.

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