AHA-NEH SHARP Grant for African American History in Gaston County
Four historically significant African American sites in Gaston County have been selected for further research and investigation through the AHA-NEH SHARP Grant. Our project lead, Alicyn Wiedrich, is coordinating the project and our History Fellow, Lisa Withers, is heading up research and writing of the project. For more information on the project and who to contact, please see below.
Curator of the Gaston County Museum of Art & History
(704) 922-7681 x:104
- Grant and project coordinator
- Grant questions
- General questions
Collections Manager of the Gaston County Museum of Art & History
(704) 922-7681 x:107
- Donations, documents, photographs
- Oral history and written history collector for the museum
Historic Preservation Commission Liaison
(704) 922-7681 x:100
- Historic Preservation Commission questions
- Historic structure questions
Collections and Archives Services
The Gaston County Museum's Collections and Archives Facility is now open for research and donation appointments!
Schedule an appointment with us today!
Appointments are available on Tuesday's and Thursday's between 10 am and 3 pm. Contact Markecia Koulesser, Collections Manager, at Markecia.email@example.com or (704)- 922-7681 ext. 107.
What have we been up to?
The Gaston County Museum and Gaston County Library Main Branch are working on something special. Learn all about it here!
In 2021, the Gaston County Public Library received an American Rescue Plan Humanities Support Grant from @nchumanities an affiliate of @nehgov for a yearlong project called “Engaging with Art Post-Pandemic”. This collaborative project between the library and the Gaston County Museum enabled the two departments to bring art and culturally important works found in department collections to a digital platform, increasing discoverability and accessibility to Gaston County resources. Funding from the grant was used to hire a project-based intern to find, digitize, and curate art and cultural resources in the county. The grant will conclude with a public presentation by intern Maddie Moore on the Engaging with Art Post-Pandemic project in September 2022.
This grant funding was made possible via the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the coronavirus.
Maddie is a life-long resident of Gaston County who enjoys history, reading, and learning new things. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill where she double majored in History and Communication Studies. She graduated and received her Bachelor's in 2019. She immediately returned to Gaston County and began working as a Library Page at the Gaston County Public Library.
Working at the library was a childhood dream come true, especially after spending a couple of years volunteering at the library as a teenager! In the past few years, she has been promoted to a Library Assistant and just received her Master of Library Science degree from Appalachian State University in the Summer of 2022.
Since January 2022, she has been interning through a collaborative project with the Gaston County Public Library and the Gaston County Museum. The internship is funded through a grant, Engaging with Art Post-Pandemic, from NC Humanities.
One of the main goals of the internship is to find culturally important works and pieces of art within the collections at the library and museum and digitize them on Biblioboard. Biblioboard is a digital platform offered through the library and houses digitized versions of the art and background information for each piece.
The internship is designed to promote discoverability of what the library and museum have in their collections and increase the general public's access to these items by providing a digitized version. Throughout the internship, Maddie has been focused on the D.E. McConnell Art Collection at the library and some of the pieces from the larger Library Art Collection. She has also worked on digitizing a scrapbook created by James Arthur Adams, which was found in library storage and is now undergoing a conservation process with the museum.
First Step: Inventory
Focusing first on the scrapbook, Maddie and Gaston County Museum Assistant Director, Alexandrea Pizza performed a preliminary search of the scrapbook so they could get a better idea of the types of materials Maddie would be handling. She was given a spreadsheet with 7 columns to allow for different material categories. The columns were Page (so she could number the pages and know where to find the materials), Photograph, Letter, Newspaper Clipping, Printed Ephemera, Misc. Object, and Other.
Most of the contents were newspaper clippings, but each category was represented in the scrapbook.
Second Step: Dry Conservation
The dry-cleaning process is a preliminary step to make sure surface-level dirt and grime are removed from the scrapbook papers before the pages are placed in an aqueous solution for a deep clean. Without the dry-cleaning process, small pieces of dirt may be trapped on the scrapbook pages when they are submerged in the aqueous solution, which would create further damage to the scrapbook materials.
The cleaning process can be tedious due to the fragility of the scrapbook materials. An acrylic eraser was finely grated to create pieces small enough to clean with a cotton ball. The eraser pieces were sprinkled directly onto both the cotton ball and scrapbook material being cleaned. To ensure no tears were made in the newspapers or letters, the cotton ball was swept over the eraser pieces in small and gentle circular motions to create a light pressure against the materials. After being sufficiently cleaned with the cotton ball, a hog hair brush was used to sweep the eraser pieces off the scrapbook materials. This step is very important, especially when cleaning a scrapbook, due to the layering of materials and the possibility of the acrylic eraser pieces getting trapped under the layers.
This process repeats for each page of the scrapbook. For photographs, the acrylic eraser does not necessarily have to be finely grated because a photograph can withstand more pressure. A soot sponge can also be used on some of the newspaper articles and other materials to clean potential fire damage, but most of the materials in the scrapbook did not need this extra step.
Third Step: Digitization and Display
The Ralph Ray, Jr. illustrations were donated to the library by Ray's mother in 1953. Most of the illustrations were from young adult action/adventure books in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The illustrations were mostly black and white and no larger than a legal sized paper. A flatbed scanner was used to create the scans and a photo editor app was used to manipulate the megapixel size of each image so it would fit the Biblioboard upload parameters. Once this was complete, Maddie began work on how the illustrations would be displayed.
It was difficult to choose the pieces that would go into the Ralph Ray, Jr. display. Maddie knew that the box of original illustrations were unique to the library, so she wanted the majority of the display to be the illustrations. She chose the most colorful dust jacket, the most detailed illustrations, and the only colored illustration in the box. The illustrations are from different books and include people, animals, and landscape scenes, which was intentional because people are drawn to different things, and she wanted a variety in the display. Maddie also chose an advertisement from the regional newspapers to demonstrate Ralph Ray, Jr.'s artistic range. He is well-known for his watercolor paintings of birds and natural scenes, but the pieces in the display case are somewhat unexpected and a departure from his work with watercolor paintings.
View Ralph Ray Jr.'s digital content here: https://library.biblioboard.com/anthology-collection/fc7418ff-d2af-4dd7-aee7-f5f7d36db0aa/8fb34630-3023-4bda-b66a-ba1782aacd97
Fourth Step: Presenting to the Public
The main focus of the presentation was to promote the digitization work that has been done over the course of the internship, thus leading to discoverability of the collections. The internship was essentially split into four large projects: the Ralph Ray, Jr. illustrations, D. E. McConnell Art Collection, Library Art Collection, and James Arthur Adams' scrapbook. For the first three projects, Maddie selected three pieces from each that she could talk about and give background information about the artists and collections.
The scrapbook was a bit different because Maddie knew she wanted to share the things she learned regarding the material inventory and dry-clean conservation processes, in addition to the historical significance of the scrapbook itself. Maddie ended the presentation with a quick tour of Biblioboard and the opportunity for attendees to explore the platform on iPads and laptops set up around the room.
Congratulations to Maddie for all of her wonderful work!
Collecting In Crisis
The Covid-19 pandemic and the civil rights crisis here in America have taken the world by storm. As our lives shift, the Gaston County Museum of Art and History would like to document these moments in history, and we are asking the people of Gaston County to help us by sharing their experiences.
Explore more Gaston County history, and digitized Gaston County Museum collections by searching DigitalNC.
Ask the Collections Manager:
Have specific questions about Gaston County Museum collections? Contact Markecia Koulesser, Collections Manager, at Markecia.firstname.lastname@example.org