Historical Treasure

Most who have visited this treasured collection recognize it by the young man holding a lantern near the entrance. Or they remember feeling the cover of the 1932 edition of “Lincoln the Unkown” by Dale Carnegie, which was made from the skin of a black man who was lynched.Yet that treasure, the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, remains unknown to most Temple students.Why? Because this university has never made it a priority to market the collection as it does many other entities on campus.As Blockson nears his retirement Dec. 31, the university tried to pull a fast one – suggesting that the collection isn’t visible and accessible enough to those who might want to use it because it is housed in an administrative building that is only open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It stresses that there was never an intention to move the collection, but as per yearly space reviews, it thought perhaps there was a space on campus that could better accommodate the collection while maintaining its integrity.Perhaps a change of location would achieve those goals. Not really.Why is visibility and accessibility an issue now in 2006? Why not 10 years ago?If the issue is really about those objectives, they can be achieved without moving the collection. Give the space left vacant by the College of Liberal Arts’ Advising Center to the Blockson Collection and extend its hours of operation by hiring library personnel to work the hours. Bottom line, such a collection, the fifth largest collection of African American historical items, deserves much more prominence here.Blockson, the collection’s curator, began his collection at age 14 growing up in Norristown, Pa. He could have taken his collection anywhere. But he chose here because of this campus’ location in the center of a black community and its midway location between two other major collections of African American historical items (The Schomburg Research Center in New York City and the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University in Washington, D.C.).Now after pressure from the community,the university is suddenly singing a different tune. It is now says that if Mr. Blockson wants his collection to remain in Sullivan Hall, it will. So that ends the discussion right? It should.Like the curator has often said, the collection is not about him – he is simply its steward. It’s about a people and their history. It’s about our history.

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