Syracuse's Black history digitized in OHA exhibit

It's a new year and with it comes a new Black History month exhibit at the Onondaga Historical Association Museum. There are no artifacts in this exhibit because all the items displayed will become a part of a virtual museum.

"Community Collections: An Exhibit of Photographs, Documents, and Oral Histories from the Local African American Community" opened on a snowy Wednesday last week at the OHA Museum, 321 Montgomery Street.

This year the collection comes from The Black Preservation Project's Digitization Fair, held last fall at the Beauchamp Library.

Claire Enkosky and Deborah Spector, OHA interns, were the curators of the exhibit. They took about 60-80 hours combined to put the exhibit together.

Sixty photographs were chosen to be a part of the exhibit. Enkosky became familiar with some of the people who collected photos. She found Elizabeth Ann Page's story to be particularly intriguing. Enkosky said Page researched her genealogy extensively; one photo in the exhibit is of Page's paternal grandfather, Daniel Page. The photo was taken in 1880 on the Madison Gorge Plantation.

"Knowing these people and then seeing photographs and the history behind, them it was really compelling," Enkosky said.

Along with the photographs are documented oral histories taken from people in Syracuse in their 80s and 90s. They talk about their lives in the 15th Ward, telling stories from as far back as they can remember, said Greg Tripoli, executive director of the OHA.

There is a 20-minute video of about 15 video clips with people telling their stories. It's a part of an ongoing project with the Black Preservation Project and "Black Syracuse-A Community History and Mapping Project."

The exhibit also has newspaper clippings and documents, one being the acceptance letter of Marjorie Carter, the first African American teacher in Syracuse, when she was notified that she was hired by the Syracuse City School District.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. It will be on display until April 30. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Black Preservation Project is a collaborative effort between residents, community organizations, and SU faculty and staff who seeks to collect the history of African Americans in Syracuse and Onondaga County in an effort to preserve that history and create a virtual museum.

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