N.C. Museum of History lands new grants

©José Galvez, 2005
©José Galvez, 2005

Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C. – With almost $130,000 in new grants, the North Carolina Museum of History is planning to launch a new emphasis on the state’s growing Latino community and will expand educational outreach for students across the state.

On May 4, the museum in downtown Raleigh will open “Al Norte al Norte: Latino Life in North Carolina,” an exhibit that will include about 50 photographs by José Galvez, a former photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner who has lived in Durham, N.C., since 2004.

The free exhibit, which will run for about a year and include photographs from across the state, is supported by a $20,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and $9,649.30 from the North Carolina Humanities Council.

The grants also will support a focus on the Latino community that goes well beyond the Galvez exhibit, says Diana Bell-Kite, an associate curator for the museum.

“We are recognizing that we have a growing Latino community in North Carolina,” she says. “It’s our responsibility to tell the story of all the people of North Carolina. And we need to make the museum more accessible to our Latino population and let all North Carolinians learn more about their Latino neighbors.”

Funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will allow the museum to publicize exhibits and programming in both English and Spanish and conduct marketing through the Spanish-speaking press.

It also will fund a Latino cultural celebration for families, to be hosted by the museum in September and feature food, crafts, music and dancing designed to highlight “the vibrant Latino culture in North Carolina,” says Bell-Kite.

And the Reynolds grant will support the development of the Latino Community Advisory Board, which will help the museum identify community needs, address those needs through museum exhibits and programming, and provide advice on collecting objects to help tell the story of Latinos in North Carolina.

Funding from the Humanities Council will fund the framing of the Galvez photographs, translation of exhibit labels into Spanish, publicity for the exhibit, and a four-part lecture series that will focus on the state’s Latino population.

A separate $100,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation will be used to increase the scope and frequency of the museum’s outreach to students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade across North Carolina.

The grant, a first from Coca-Cola, will replace some of the state funding the museum has lost during the recent budget crisis, and will help both expand existing programming and launch new efforts.

“We’re going to need to be more creative in how we seek funds and go beyond what we receive from the state,” says Michelle Carr, curator of internal programs for the museum. “We don’t want to have to cut back on programming.”

Over the next two years, the Coca-Cola grant will allow the museum to double to 4,000 the number of students it serves through its distance-learning program, which presents live, two-way videoconference classes on various historical topics.

The grant also will fund the development of a new class on the relationship between North Carolinians and the land.

The museum’s Educational Media Center will use part of the Coca-Cola grant to fund its History-in-a-Box kits, which are used by teachers across the state to help students understand the impact of North Carolina’s natural resources on the state’s residents.

And the grant will allow the museum’s Junior Historian Association, which helps its approximately 5,000 school-age members improve their research, analytical and writing skills, to launch a program in which student-members will develop community-preservation projects that will be eligible for a competition next spring.

The funding also will support the 40-page Tar Heel Junior Historian Magazine, replacing state dollars that were cut and covering the cost to print the publication twice a year for the next two years.

The museum serves almost 275,000 students annually across all 100 counties in the state, says Carr, some through visits to the museum and others through outreach efforts.

And with public-school funding in crisis in the state, outreach efforts likely will become more important, she says.

“School systems are having to cut back and it’s harder for them to travel here to see us,” says Carr. “Sometimes it’s just not possible. We’re trying to take the museum experience to the children, wherever they are in North Carolina.”

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