August 30, 2012
Shorefront Archives

Since the opening of the center in May, 2009, the Shorefront Legacy Center has put together many programs and activities that has engaged the community at large. The Legacy Center has grown its audience, attracted groups and organizations to utilize its space and held historically significant events, lectures and seminars.

In addition Shorefronts programs had engaged more than 150 youths in projects that showcased their talents and interest in history, engaged scholars in meaningful conversations, and had captive audiences as local musicians shared their approach to music.

At the same time, Shorefront staff and volunteers grew its archives two-fold. While organized, we knew that a system had to be put in place for the community, researchers and scholars can use.

For the last two and a half years, Shorefront has been involved in the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) survey project. The end result of the BMRC and Shorefront’s participation has made the Shorefront’s archive information accessible on a global level.

The initial goal of the BMRC was to make Chicago’s historic African American and African diasporic information broadly accessible from its member based historical organizations. The cumulating event was the 2011 symposium “Full Exposure”, bringing together 200 local archivists and historians to discuss the state of African American archives. Shorefront was a panelist speaker.

 There are now 35 downloadable finding aids for the world to consume

Shorefront was then targeted by the BMRC for an initial survey and three small collections were processed. To Shorefront’s benefit, the BMRC recognized the significance of Shorefront’s collection.

Being the only historical organization north of Chicago to focus only on local Black history in the northern suburbs, Shorefront’s archives measured over 50 linear feet. As part of the BMRC CLIR grant, Shorefront received a intern for summer 2012. What was supposed to be a four-week internship expanded into a three month internship.

Shorefront staff guided the intern on a crash-course in local history to help him in organizing the growing “live” archives. His initial assessment identified more than 55 collections. Over the months, each collection was accessed, reorganized, labeled and placed in new archival boxes. In addition, finding aids were prepared.

Today’s posting of this article marks the end of the internship. With the help of the BMRC and summer intern Dustin Witsman, there are now 35 downloadable finding aids for the world to consume. Best yet, there are more to come.

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