Historical Society Receives $34,180 Federal Grant to Digitize Collections

Image collages of 19th & 20th century Black people
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The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the Lawnside Historical Society $34,180 through its Museum Grants for African American History and Culture program in June as a portion of $6 million in federal support for 30 institutions nationwide.

The Society will use the funding to organize, digitize and preserve an extensive catalog of letters, tickets, handbills, posters, photographs, receipts, fraternal lodge records, videos, audio recordings, memorabilia, oral histories and transcripts as well as donated personal collections. 

“The project is an effort to stop the erosion and ensure these items are available to help young people keep learning, remembering and discovering their own hidden histories,” said Linda Shockley, president of the historical society. 

The project is a partnership between the Lawnside Historical Society and 1838 Black Metropolis, a public history nonprofit named for an initiative by free Philadelphians. Shamele Jordon, Lawnside’s chief curator, will set the collection’s framework and focus while ensuring that community voices lead. 1838 Black Metropolis’ Michiko Quinones will manage the program and provide historical consulting related to antebellum Black history in Philadelphia. 

“The reality is that if we don’t digitize our documents, our history will gradually be erased. The world needs to understand the cultural heritage of early 19th century Black life, and focusing on Lawnside helps us understand how Black people were integral to the Underground Railroad movement”, said Ms. Jordon.

“Most importantly, we can see how the structures of stability, created when Lawnside was called Snow Hill, have become an incredibly rich treasure trove of Black history that is applicable to people across the United States,” she said. 

The 2024 fiscal year grant runs through October 2025 and will culminate in an online digitized catalog of documents available to the public. 

Ms. Quinones, program director, said, “We are fortunate to have so much material from our collective past still in existence. But these things can become compromised or discarded leaving no trace of our shared past, which is why this project is so important.” 

Over the years, citizens have given the LHS photographs, letters and more. The collection of Dr. Roscoe L. Moore, spanning more than a century, was given to the Society at his son’s direction. Spencer C. Moore II, was vice president of both the Lawnside and Magnolia historical societies before he passed away.

The Historical Society of Haddonfield has graciously agreed to house the physical collection representing about 20 linear feet. Archivist David Platt at the Patricia Lennon Archive Center has been particularly helpful and instructive.

“The history of the United States cannot be told without the inclusion of the African American experience,” said Acting IMLS Director Cyndee Landrum. “With these awards, IMLS furthers its commitment to African American museums and HBCUs and affirms their unique ability to protect, preserve and make accessible stories, which have been largely obscured.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. It advances, supports, and empowers America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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