Black Archives makes strides into future with new building

Inside the cluttered confines of the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum, located at the Historic Carnegie Library on FAMU’s campus, you can hear the noises of change. But the seemingly never ending chorus of drills and hammers caused by the construction of the Archives expansion will soon come to an end.

According to Murrell Dawson, Archivist Curator, the multimillion-dollar state of the art building, which will be located behind the Carnegie Library, will be tentatively finished in late spring.

Before the expansion of the Black Archives building, it was already one of the leading research facilities in the country, said Assistant Professor of history Willie Butler.

The Black Archives operates out of two locations. The Black Archives Complex at the Union Bank is at 219 Apalachee Parkway. But the space just isn’t enough.

“Before, we had stuff over here and stuff over there in boxes,” Butler said.

“Now we can really showcase what we have.”

The new building will include four levels.

The highlight of Level Zero will be a public entrance and a gift shop.

Level One will include a small lecture hall, conference rooms, seminar rooms, a small exhibition area and office space for the directors and staff.

The main museum area will be located on Level Two. There will be space for permanent, temporary and rotating exhibitions. But Dawson is most excited about the special children’s exhibition area that will be on Level Two. Dawson said the museum experience sometimes neglects children because all the exhibits are high up and they can’t touch anything.

“Sometimes kids feel left out because in museums we say you can’t touch this and you can’t touch that,” Dawson explained. “We’re going to have computers, a puppeteer and things that are on their level. I’m excited even if its just ends up being for the kids at DRS.”

Level Three will be home to the center’s computer and information technology operations.

Dawson said the new facility will not only allow the Black Archives to better display more of its historical archives, it will also allow them to better assist students in their research efforts.

“It will expand our services five fold,” Dawson said. “Right now, we have one table that seats six students. With our new technology center we will have six tables that seat 30 students.”

But with a new facility, comes new problems.

Dawson said the Black Archives currently operates both locations with just five employees. She also said she has asked the University to hire an additional professional staffer to oversee and operate the new units. She said she needs individuals specifically trained in museum and archival administration.

Dawson also said she would like to have a public relations and marketing coordinator to bring in money, a child education specialist and a computer technician to help with the new technology.

These new technologies will include virtual tour capabilities. Dawson also mentioned that through digitalization, the Black Archives would be able to show rare and fragile artifacts on computers.

However, none of these amenities will guarantee that students on campus will attend.

Butler said low attendance of students is part of a social historical phenomenon. Butler said back in his day black people had a social awareness and desire to learn about black history and culture, not just in America, but all over the world.

“We have become unwittingly comfortable and have allowed the powers that be to systematically strip us of all of the accomplishments of the 50s and 60s,” Butler said.

“That’s why students on campus have no interest, and I blame my generation for that.”

A’sia Smith, a 19 year-old sophomore from Deland has never even been to the Black Archives.

“I don’t know why I haven’t been, I have a big interest in our history period,” Smith said. “I read up on it.

Nonetheless, the new facilities will provide its visitors with more opportunities to learn about FAMU and black history.

“It will allow us to better meet the tremendous demands of our diverse population,” Dawson said.

Contact Nick Birdsong at