Potter College News
African American Heritage Council awards grant for Jonesville Memory Project
- Tiffany Isselhardt
- Monday, May 2nd, 2022
The Kentucky Museum at WKU has received a $7,000 grant from the Kentucky African American Heritage Council, part of the Kentucky State Historic Preservation Office, to support its ongoing documentation and interpretation efforts related to the Jonesville neighborhood, called the Jonesville Memory Project. The grant will provide funding for honorariums, printing, and marketing of an upcoming poster exhibition on Jonesville, as well as a Fall 2022 symposium hosted jointly with the Kentucky Folklife Program and African American Museum of Bowling Green.
The Jonesville Memory Project is an oral history/documentation project – coordinated with the Kentucky Folklife Program, Kentucky Museum, and African American Museum of Bowling Green – to document the stories of Jonesville, a community established by formerly enslaved people following the Civil War. Between 1963-64, Jonesville was demolished to make way for the expansion of the WKU campus.
“The destruction of this vibrant community is a deeply emotional touchstone that looms large in the stories of former residents and their descendants as part of their family folklore,” stated Brent Bjorkman, Director of the Kentucky Museum and Kentucky Folklife Program. “The Jonesville Memory Project, based on local ethnographic and historical research, is one important way we can help further highlight and validate the voices of those connected to this former Bowling Green African American neighborhood.”
Although some research and a historical marker exists about Jonesville, the current nationwide move for racial justice has renewed energy for community-based documentation of the experiences of former Jonesville residents, the oral history regarding Jonesville passed on within families, and the wider impact of the destruction of Jonesville on Black residents of Bowling Green – even those without direct family ties.
This project grew out of a fresco mural project completed at the Kentucky Museum in 2021 by local artist Alice Gatewood-Waddell, WKU art professor Mike Nichols, and three WKU student interns. The subject of the mural, designed and co-produced and painted by Waddell, depicts representative images of the exodus from the neighborhood as well as the images of children that always wanted to know what was at the top of the hill (WKU). As the mural was in process, conversations began about how it might serve as a springboard for conversations and further documentation of Jonesville. These conversations were interrupted by the December 2021 tornado that struck Bowling Green, which directly impacted the African American Museum. While conservation and facility needs are assessed, the project team is moving forward with the Jonesville Memory Project as a means of promoting Black history in Bowling Green and strengthening inter-institutional partnerships that support rebuilding and outreach for the African American Museum.
This summer, the team will train residents of South-Central Kentucky as Community Scholars, in partnership with the Kentucky Arts Council and Kentucky Folklife Program. Community Scholars will, as part of their training, undertake oral history interviews with Jonesville residents and their descendants. Simultaneously, historical and object research is being conducted by a collaborative team of staff from the Kentucky Museum and African American Museum. These two streams of research will coalesce in Fall 2022 to produce a traveling poster exhibition on Jonesville – telling the community’s story through the voices of those who experienced it. The exhibition will premiere at a public symposium in Fall 2022 at the Kentucky Museum, highlighting the stories of Jonesville and its impacts on African American life in our region. The project team hopes to secure additional funding to print copies of the exhibition for long-term use at the Kentucky Museum and African American Museum.
The project team also hopes the exhibition and symposium will lead to the training of more Community Scholars and greater documentation of African American life in South Central Kentucky.
About the Kentucky Museum
Founded in 1939, the Kentucky Museum is a teaching institution with premier cultural collections that complement, support and challenge the academic experiences of WKU students, faculty and staff. It also provides a gathering place for our campus and community to come to know and celebrate who they are as individuals and as Kentuckians in the 21st century. The Museum serves Kentuckians and visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications and collections research. As a history and cultural museum concerned with meanings, narratives and associations, its collections offer multiple opportunities to explore and interpret history and culture as well as discover how Kentuckians have shaped and been shaped by local, state, regional, national and global influences over the last two-and-a-half centuries.
For more information, contact Tiffany Isselhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org.