Preservation Project: Developing a Virtual Museum

Syracuse is rich in African American history. Early abolitionists, suffragists, and advocates for native sovereignty and treaty rights established their voices and led nationwide change from Central New York. The area has also reverberated from such dramatic shifts as the vast migration from Southern states and the demise of the city’s 15th ward. Unfortunately, much of this history of African Americans in Syracuse is scattered among churches, community organizations, and private residences. The Black History Preservation project is committed to honoring and celebrating the history and heritage of black people in Syracuse and Central New York. A partnership of residents, community organizations, and SU faculty and staff has resulted in the development of this virtual museum to highlight the presence, accomplishments, and contributions of our often under-recognized community.

The plan for a virtual museum, which would preserve local black history in one forum, evolved from a community team meeting in 2008 in which members sought to create a cultural center containing the history of black people in Syracuse. Under the guidance of the Syracuse University South Side Initiative Office, the Black History Preservation project brings together various community partners: the Onondaga County Public Library, the Onondaga Historical Association, the Dunbar Association, the City of Syracuse Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs, UMI Associates, residents, local church representatives, and SU faculty, which includes an interdisciplinary team from the School of Information Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and Syracuse University Libraries.

In 2008 The Black History Preservation project (BHPP) began developing the virtual community museum. Using the knowledge resources of Syracuse University, namely the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University Library, and the Department of African American Studies, the BHPP began providing oral history training, community preservation workshops, and digital history fairs to aid in the collection and preservation of images.

The Black History Preservation project also produced the documentary, Syracuse’s 15th Ward and Beyond with videographer, Courtney Rile and Michael Barletta of Daylight Blue Media. Thus far, BHPP has also worked with the Onondaga Historic Association (OHA) by creating its 2009 Black history month exhibit, and with both OHA and the Black Syracuse project (of the Syracuse University African American Studies Department within the College of Arts and Sciences) to display some of the historic photographs exhibited on this website.

Our motto, “YOUR STORY IS OUR HISTORY and OUR HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY”, indicates the importance of community participation in the preservation of culture and history. Through the virtual community museum, we are able to share our Syracuse and Central New York stories with the world.

Stories and images representing Black life in Syracuse and Central New York are collected and scanned at the South Side Communication Center located at 2331 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, New York. If you’re interested in sharing your story, photographs or documents, please call: The South Side Initiative Office at
315- 443-1916 to schedule an appointment.

For further information on how to support the Syracuse Black History Preservation Project, call the Syracuse University South Side Initiative Office at 315- 443-1916.

This community-university model of cooperative preservation of culturally significant archival materials is being developed to translate to other cultural venues.
A special thank you to those individuals and organizations that helped make this project possible…