“A Darker Presence: Interpretive Goals and Collecting Strategies in the National Museum of African American History and Culture": Joel Barkan Memorial Keynote Lecture by William Pretzer
Since its opening, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has drawn record crowds. Simply getting an entry ticket is an accomplishment. To create such a powerful, moving series of exhibits required years of searching, legions of donors who had to be convinced their family treasures would be preserved carefully and displayed respectfully, and the overcoming of innumerable obstacles. The organization of the museum also had to tell the painful story of the Middle Passage so many endured as they were torn from their homes in Africa and forced into slavery in America. William Pretzer was part of the team that built this stunning collection, a story he shares in the Joel Barkan Memorial Keynote Lecture.
William S. Pretzer is Senior Curator of History at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, a position he has held since 2009. In this position, he co-curated one of the Museum’s inaugural exhibitions, A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond, developed targeted collecting initiatives to build the Museum’s collection, and supervised the work of a group of curators and museum specialists during the pre-building operations of a museum in the making. Since the Museum opened to the public in September 2016, he has focused on creating a Center for the Study of African American Innovation and Entrepreneurship and collecting in the areas of business, labor, science and technology. Previously, Pretzer worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, and, in Michigan, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. He has taught courses on social history at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, and the history of technology and museum studies at Central Michigan University where he also directed the university museum.
This event is part of the 2018 Provost's Global Forum and Obermann Humanities Symposium, Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice, in which practicing archivists, engaged scholars, and interdisciplinary artists will share projects from guerrilla archiving of climate data to mining corporate records for evidence of organized violence.
The Provost's Global Forum and Obermann Humanities Symposium is co-sponsored by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Ida Beam Visiting Professorships Program, the Provost’s Global Forum International Programs grant, the UI Center for Human Rights, Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry, the UI School of Music, UI Libraries-Special Collections, the UI Department of History, and the UI Department of Cinematic Arts.