MURFREESBORO — MTSU students are trying to preserve the history of African-American education in Rutherford County, and you can play a major role by helping them.
Graduate students in Brenden Martin’s “Essentials of Museum Management” class, in cooperation with the Bradley Academy Museum and Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, need the public’s help in providing artifacts and identifying people in photographs as they revamp the museums’ exhibit area.
The exhibit space was developed 16 years ago, but Martin says museum and municipal officials want to broaden the scope of the exhibit.
“As Bradley Academy moves into a new administrative structure, I think they are very interested in expanding their collections,” said Martin.
The student director of the project is Lindsey Fisher, a doctoral candidate from New Castle, Pennsylvania.
“The big idea is African-American education as a way to do activism and preservation,” said Fisher.
Presentation of the artifacts is still being discussed, but Martin and Fisher said plans include using some existing oral histories from MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center and Rutherford County’s archives to create short films for more of a multimedia experience.
Eleven students who are working on their master’s and doctoral degrees are contributing to the project.
“Each person is assigned a specific task,” said Fisher. “We have some people who are doing research, some people who are coordinating all of the oral histories, some people who are doing just the digital histories, and then we’re all sort of working together on the exhibit text to make sure it all makes sense.”
Martin said Bradley Academy, Holloway High School and other educational venues were “places of empowerment” for the African-American community, which was disempowered by slavery and later by Jim Crow laws that hampered educational enlightenment.
“We are excited for the new additions and changes to highlight the accomplishments of more African-Americans in the community that have not been told or shown to the public,” said Katie Wilson of the Friends of Bradley Academy Museum.
Some existing aspects of the exhibit, such as the arch representing the academy entrance and murals painted by artist Steve Matthews, will remain part of the display.
“We take pride in the historical value of this building and want to give everyone who visits a wonderful and educational experience,” said Vonchelle Stembridge, program coordinator of the Bradley Academy Museum & Cultural Center. “The community is going to be able to view our museum in a new and innovative way.”
For the students, the project represents a major addition to their portfolios as they prepare for careers in historical fields.
“The benefit of this for the students is that they get some real world, hands-on experience in museum exhibits, installation (and) collections management,” said Martin. “I think it’s a really unique training opportunity for their future careers.”
Anyone who would like to assist Martin, Fisher and the students with information or artifacts can contact Martin at 615-898-2643 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Fisher at email@example.com.