River Road African American Museum receives LSU Libraries award

Staff Report

The LSU Libraries is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history and diverse culture of communities across Louisiana. In keeping with that spirit, this summer the libraries presented the 2022 Y’ALL Award to the River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville.

The Y’ALL Award was first established in 2019 and is an acronym for “You Are Louisiana’s Legacy.” Its purpose is to share digitization equipment and expertise with small, community-oriented libraries, archives, and museums in Louisiana.

Gabe Harrell, LSU Libraries’ Digitization Lab Manager, presents the 2022 Y’ALL Award plaque to Kathe Hambrick, founder and former executive director of the River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville.

“RRAAM was selected for the award because of their strong ties to their community, the richness of their collections, and the important addition their material makes to the Louisiana Digital Library,” said Sophie Ziegler, LSU Libraries’ Head of Digital Programs and Services.

Now in its 28th year, museum founder Kathe Hambrick says, “The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of African Americans in the rural communities of South Louisiana.” They work closely with the community in and around Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

Many cultural heritage institutions, like RRAAM, house significant historical materials but lack the technical resources and staffing to digitize their collections. This award provides the technical resources and staff time that enables them to digitize their holdings and hosts the resulting digital collections online through the Louisiana Digital Library.

LSU Libraries digitized a wide variety of material of great local and regional importance for RRAAM, including:

  • Notebooks of a midwife working with black and white families in and around Donaldsonville between 1914 and 1921
  • Commissary and payroll ledgers from Waterloo Plantation from the 1930s and 40s
  • Transcriptions of the 1870 and 1890 Ascension Parish censuses
  • Records and ephemera from several local Benevolent Associations
  • A 1964 report by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) on their activities in Louisiana
  • A Bill of Sale of an enslaved person from 1850
  • Records of Butler Farm from the 1930s to the 1950s
  • Records of Butler Funeral Home from the 1950s

"LSU Libraries’ Y’ALL Award is, in many ways, a race against time. Here in Louisiana, many of our cultural heritage institutions are one storm away from devastation. Digitization is one means of protecting our history and culture for future generations, as well as making it more accessible for the current generation. The River Road African American Museum is exactly the type of institution we hope to work with; their roots in the community are deep, and their collection fills gaps in the state’s existing digitized cultural heritage,” Ziegler said.

In addition to RRAAM receiving copies of the digital files for use at their institution, these collections will be added to the LDL, where they will be available to the public free of charge.