Revolutionary dreams erupt out of political engagement; collective social movements are incubators of new knowledge. Robin D.G. Kelly, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
This presentation traces the arc of Museums Respond to Ferguson and #BlkTwitterstorians–two born digital projects that emerged at the height of the Movement for Black Lives. The chats started with queries that then influenced deeper dialogue on how scholars and activists together could use history to inform a world specifically void of policing and incarceration. Both projects hinged on collective engagement with a few questions (and critiques) to incubate new ideas on how to present and preserve Black history with Black futures in mind. While both projects happened online, low-tech methodologies deeply informed project decisions. Phone calls, in-person meetings and printed chats played an important role in shaping the project. There was a heavy emphasis on the public, but the projects influenced the personal in ways that ultimately led to Museums Respond to Ferguson’s end and #BlkTwitterstorians refocus.
This presentation will also include a demonstration, inviting participants to walk through constructing a dialogue on Twitter: preparation, rules for engagement, reflecting, and planning for archiving and dissemination.
Aleia M. Brown is the Program Manager for Humanities Action Lab’s next project and recipient of the 2017 Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellowship. Prior to this, she was Visiting Curator of African and African American History & Culture at Michigan State University, building on her research focus from her tenure as a curator at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Brown holds a Ph.D. in Public History form Middle Tennessee State University, a M.A. in Public History from Northern Kentucky University, and a B.S. in History from the Honors College at Coppin State University, where she was also a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Scholar. Her research and public history practice makes interventions in the following fields: African American history, civil and human rights, women’s history, material culture, museum studies, sites of political memory, and digital humanities.
Brown has curated exhibitions and public programs utilizing material culture as an entry point to understanding current issues with deep histories. Her most comprehensive project (as Visiting Curator of African and American History at Michigan State University Museum) is the co-curated travelling exhibition Ubuntutu: Life Legacies of Love and Action that opened at the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island in October 2016. Her co-edited exhibition catalog by the same name explores textile artists’ relationship with the legacy of Desmond Tutu in the wake of key anniversaries pertaining to civil rights legislation and South African apartheid.
Brown is the co-founder and organizer of two acclaimed digital humanities projects. Started in 2014, #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson is both a public forum and curatorial collective. The project pushes museums to gain competencies to utilize exhibitions and collections to address state sanctioned violence. #BlkTwitterstorians is a Twitter chat designed to promote the work of Black historians. The second component involves archiving #BlkTwitterstorians related tweets, enabling researchers to trace shifts in the field wide debates through tweets. Aleia M. Brown’s scholarship has appeared, or is forthcoming in, The Black Scholar, CODE | WORDS: Technology and Theory in Museums, TIMELINE Magazine. Her popular writing has appeared in Black Perspectives, History@Work, MuseumNext, Slate, and Southern Rambles.