Strengthening Communities at the C.H. Nash Museum

Unfortunately, the end of the semester caught me up short, so it’s been a while since I have posted here.  But now, back to it . . . Today at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa we began what promises to be an exciting five-week exhibit project – The African-American Cultural Heritage in Southwest Memphis.  Those of you familiar with Chucalissa might be a bit surprised as the site is known as a prehistoric Mississippian period temple mound.  The genesis for this summer’s project was the 2002 excavation of a small 1920s farmstead next to the prehistoric earthworks coupled with our mission to function as a community asset and integrate the C.H. Nash Museum more fully into the lives southwest Memphians.

The Chucalissa site is located in a traditionally African-American section of Memphis.  In fact, the modern discovery of Chucalissa in 1940 is rooted in the historic events of the community’s development.  However, until recently, the historic era of Chucalissa’s built environment was not included in the Museum’s interpretative plan.   Our new introductory video does report the historic component of the site.  A recently installed banner exhibit in the Museum’s main hallway also reports the local community development over the past 200 years.  This summer’s project will add another interpretive feature to these recent additions.

The group of students pictured above were chosen from a group of 35 applicants in the neighborhood surrounding the Museum.  Each applicant wrote an essay explaining why knowing about the African-American Cultural Heritage of their neighborhood was important.  Over the five-week period of the project the youth will visit area museums such as the National Civil Rights Museum, The Stax Museum of American Soul, and the Pink Palace, and receive “behind the scenes” tours by curators, collection managers, and interpreters.  Coupled with the on-site program including guest speakers, the students will design, produce and install a permanent exhibit on their cultural heritage at the C.H. Nash Museum.  The students are charged with creating an exhibit that answers “What do you want the visitors to the C.H. Nash Museum to know about the cultural heritage of the African-American community in Southwest Memphis?”

This project incorporates the very essence of this blog – Archaeology, Museums and Public Outreach.  The project is funded through a grant from the the Strengthening Communities Initiative at the University of Memphis.  Stay tuned for progress reports!

  2 comments for “Strengthening Communities at the C.H. Nash Museum

  1. June 9, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Robert, this looks like a great project! You mention these are student from the neighborhood – did they all grow up in the neighborhood, or just move there to attend college? (Maybe I shouldn’t assume they are current students at the University of Memphis?)

    • June 9, 2010 at 1:14 am


      Thanks for your comment. The students are all high school juniors and seniors who currently reside in the 38109 zip code surrounding the Museum. Most have lived in the zipcode their entire lives. Very exciting community engagement.

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