By Dr. Jacqueline P. Hudson, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH
As one of the recipients of the Douglas Evelyn Scholarship for Minority Professionals to attend AASLH’s 2021 conference, it was a great experience attending informative sessions, hearing two dynamic speakers, and having the ability to network with other museum professionals. The two sessions that stood out for me were the “Exhibit to Action” and the “Discussing the Past: Creating Spaces for Families to Talk about Slavery and Other Difficult Subjects.” As an Exhibitions Content Developer at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC), both sessions intersect with one another in my role there. The exercise that the panelist had the group do in the exhibits session was a great way to use what we knew and have the capacity to collaborate with this specific task. I am going to use that handout going forward in my position at NURFC. With the other session from that Saturday, it was very informative to hear different perspectives about how to present difficult topics for families. While I have a lot of knowledge about the institution of slavery, it can be a hard topic for visitors to digest, but it is necessary. I appreciate the honesty about the possibility of pushback from visitors and it was refreshing to hear other professionals’ stories about how they handled the situation.
Both Drs. Hasan Kwame Jefferies and Rhonda Y. Williams were inspiring about how I can bring my vision about social justice to NURFC. What I also appreciate was their honesty and for encouraging the audience (which included myself) to think “outside the box.” Dr. Jeffries also inspired me to stand up and respond to his direct approach about how we are in the business of telling the truth! Dr. Williams was also amazing in her speech about expanding the realm of promoting social justice. As one of the presenters at the poster session sponsored by NCPH, it was great to see other individuals who were working in various subjects with their research. In fact, one of the other presenters was a doctoral student who was working on a museum in Chicago where I spent many years in my young adult life.
Lastly, I was particularly excited about connecting with different professionals in the field. I connected with a few from my home state of Mississippi. It was also refreshing to hear that other professionals are concerned about diversity and trauma in collections (from the viewpoint of working at an institution that covers topic of slavery, this was needed). I will take this experience from different areas at AASLH and bring it to my role at NURFC. Thank you for the opportunity!