In an effort to document the lost art form of hip-hop in Massachusetts, an online archive is attempting to grow its collection with the community’s help.
An event presented by a collaboration between the Boston Public Library and UMass Boston, is inviting artists, producers, DJs, and fans from the 1970s to today, to share personal photographs, objects, and memories at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition.
The unique hip-hop event will digitize hip-hop memorabilia on Saturday, May 19, at the Central Library from 11 – 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Everyone is invited to join even if they don’t have items to add to the collection.
The event is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage program.
This funding enables UMass Boston and the Boston Public Library to work with local hip-hop community and scholars to host a digitizing day event to collect photographs, stories, and other materials that will be added to the Healey Library’s Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive.
“We have one of the only collections in the country,” said Pacey Foster, associate professor of management at UMass Boston.
Since it’s birth in the late 1970s in New York’s African-American and Latino communities, hip-hop has become one of the most important innovations in American cultural history. It has provided a mechanism for conflict resolution, community building, and youth empowerment in disadvantaged communities.
Although scholars and some national archival institutions have started to document and collect the early history and material culture of hip-hop, many of these efforts focus more on famous artists and well-known scenes.
Less attention has been devoted to the countless artists and scenes that never made the national spotlight. This is particularly true in Boston, where geographic, institutional and racial obstacles made it difficult for local artists to gain regional and national attention.
“There are just numerous amounts of untold stories,” Foster said. “This is a chance to tell that story.”
Everyone connected to hip-hop in Massachusetts is invited to bring three items (photos, flyers, posters, articles of clothing, etc.) that tell their hip-hop story. Everything will be scanned and digitized and added to a statewide digital collection at openarchives.umb.edu.
Each item will correspond with the stories that members of the public share on video.
The event will not be collecting audio tapes, but if someone found some old cassettes, they can schedule a time with the team to document the sound later.
The Mass. Memories Road Show is a statewide digital history project that documents people, places and events in the states history through family photographs and stories.
This event is unique, because it will be documenting not a place but a cultural time period within the entire state, and will be adding to an already existing collection.
“The growth of the collection has been very much DIY, just as the hip-hop community is,” said Carolyn Goldstein, public history and community archives program manager for UMass Boston. “We’re asking the community what’s important to preserve and what does it mean to them.”
Community members began meeting monthly this past January under the direction of Cindy Diggs, director of Hip-Hop Community Engagement, to collaborate on outreach for this event so that the invitation will reach as broad and diverse backgrounds as possible.
The hope is that the outreach work will get individuals from across the state to share their memorabilia at the upcoming event.
“We have great energy and are excited about growing the collection,” said Goldstein.