The Museum has begun a collecting initiative that actively seeks photographs, artifacts, artworks and materials to document the history of civil rights movements, immigration and race in Los Altos and the greater Santa Clara County. The materials collected through this initiative will be a part of the newly-created collection we are calling the “Social Justice Collection.”
Race is oftentimes referred to as our nation’s “Achilles heel.” Absorbing America’s hard history surrounding race relations is a painful reality, but it must be acknowledged. Archiving and collecting history is one solution to reconcile our past; it can also serve as a form of healing.
As public educators for a local history museum, we operate a public forum to bring to light issues of institutionalized racism and to document struggles towards peace and equality for historically marginalized populations. We recognize our responsibility to spread awareness about our multiracial and multicultural community. In a blog post written by our Executive Director last summer, the Museum made a commitment to champion for racial equity in our community.
In June 2020, Izze Boustead, Los Altos High School student and social activist, helped us collect posters, brochures, documents, photographs and artworks that were used during the June 4, 2020 Black Lives Matter march in Los Altos and Mountain View. The collection has since expanded to the acquisition of four large-scale artworks (originally displayed in Lincoln Park, Los Altos) gifted by Justice Vanguard and other creative works by local artists. The collection includes a TEDxLAHS video and the Los Altos Town Crier article, “Other Voices: Black in Los Altos” by Noah Tesfaye, as well as student works from De Anza and Foothill Colleges.
Justice Vanguard member Urna Bajracharya formerly served as our curatorial intern in 2018 for the exhibition, “Inspired by Juana: La Doña de la Frontera.” She also served as one of the eight muralists for the Black Lives Matter mural commissioned by the City of Palo Alto’s Art Commission. Other members of Justice Vanguard, Kiyoshi Taylor and Kenan Moos, have been awarded the Los Altos Town Crier’s Los Altans of the Year for 2020.
Alongside the collecting initiative, the Museum hosted Dolores Davison, Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Foothill College, for a talk entitled, Race and the Suffrage Movement, which looked at the stark realities that women of color faced despite the passing of the women’s right to vote in 1920.
Our Museum next plans to host a lecture on the history of African American pioneers in the Santa Clara Valley. Overcoming tremendous obstacles, black communities took root in Palo Alto and Santa Clara dating back to the early 1900s.
The 2020 pandemic has forced us to reflect on our way of life and perhaps our past. Through our programming, exhibitions and collections, the work of this Museum seeks to propel us in building a more compassionate and just society. As author Amy Tan writes in her book, Where the Past Begins: Memory and Imagination, “The power of archiving and recording history is that it allows us to replace shame and racial traumas, with outrage. It allows us to document the inequities of the past, and make real the harsh realities endured by generations in this country.”
Contributed by Dianne Shen, Collections Strategist