Harlem on My Mind exhibition records, 1966-2007

A Finding Aid to the Harlem on My Mind exhibition records,1966-2007 in the Archives of American Art, by Justin Brancato

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Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

Allon Schoener (b.1926) is a writer, cultural historian, consultant, and organizer of exhibitions that focus on topics such as African Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans, and the history of the Lower East Side. His best known exhibition was the highly controversial show "Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America." A graduate of Yale University, he currently lives in Los Angeles.

"Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America 1900-1968" was a 1969 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized by Allon Schoener. The exhibition documented life in Harlem through the use of photographs, film and audio recordings. It was created under the directorship of Thomas Hoving and contributed to the exhibition model commonly known as the "blockbuster" show.

At the time, the exhibition was much reviled, having received harsh criticism from critics, politicians, and the public alike. The initial spark was an essay in the accompanying book by 17-year-old Harlem high school student Candice Van Ellison. The essay contained prejudicial remarks about members of the Jewish, Irish and Puerto Rican communities. The book was quickly removed from the Museum and pulled from bookshelves by the publisher.

Additional criticism focused on several key issues, including the exhibition's multimedia platform; the lack of paintings and sculptures, particularly by African-American artists; and a thematic presentation that used documentary techniques that focused on sociological and cultural issues. Such criticism was compounded by the Harlem Cultural Council's withdrawal of support.

Schoener wrote that the objective of the exhibition was to "demonstrate that the black community in Harlem is a major cultural environment with enormous strength and potential? that this community has made major contributions to the mainstream of American culture in music, theater and literature." The exhibition documented Harlem from its beginnings in the early 20th century as a prosperous white neighborhood, through the influx of southern African-Americans, up to the civil rights movements of the late 1960s.

After the original exhibition ended, Schoener spent the next several decades working intermittently on re-creations of the exhibition, some of which failed to see fruition. Others succeeded, culminating as shows at Columbia University and the I. P. Stanback Museum. Schoener participated in numerous panel discussions, events and conferences, including the Schomburg Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

His book, Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, was reissued after a prolonged struggle to obtain the rights from its original publisher. Editions were published in 1979, 1995 and 2007, with forewords by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and U.S. Congressman Charles B. Rangel.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The "Harlem on My Mind" exhibition records measure 3.0 linear feet and date from 1966-2007. The records contain exhibition and book files, correspondence, research material, printed material and photographs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition. Also included is material documenting additional exhibitions, conferences and events relating to the original exhibition.

Correspondence, 1967-2007, concerns all aspects of production and coordination of the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, the public's response to the controversial Candice Van Ellison catalog introduction, letters of support, the 10th Anniversary celebration, and a letter from U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel.

Exhibition files for the original "Harlem on My Mind" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1968-1969, include awards, budgets, construction and installation notes, floor plans, an installation log, invoices, notes, photographs, public relations, schedules, research, statistics, printed material and audio relating to the exhibition.

"Harlem on My Mind" exhibition re-creation files from 1978-2007 contain correspondence, project outline, and exhibition files including Harlem: USA/International Traveling Exhibition and Cultural Festival, 1985-1987; Columbia University Exhibition, 2006-2007; and I. P. Stanback Museum Exhibition, 2006-2007.

Harlem on My Mind book files, 1967-2007, consist of correspondence, invoices, outline, permissions, royalty statements, notes and writings.

Conferences and events, 1978-2007, include: "Harlem: The Last Ten Years," International Center of Photography, 1978-1979; Post Modernism Conference, Brooklyn Academy of Music; "Global Cities," 1985-1992, Schomburg Conference, 1993-1999; "A Walk Through Harlem," Schomburg Center, 1999; "The (Un)making of the Black Cultural Mecca," the New School, 2003; "Harlem Displaced" and "Harlem in Our Eyes," Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, 1999-2006; and "Harlem Then and Now," Schomburg Center, 2007.

Printed material, 1968-2007, includes newspaper and magazine clippings, three editions of Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America 1900-1968 (1979, 1995 and 2007), and the book jacket for the 1968 edition.

Arrangement and Series Description

Most material is arranged chornologically unless noted otherwise in the series description.

The Harlem on My Mind exhibition records are organized into 6 series.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Van Ellison, Candace

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Sound recordings
  • Scrapbooks
  • Notes
  • Awards

Names:

  • Rangel, Charles B.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)

Provenance

The papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2009 by Allon Schoener.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were processed by Justin Brancato in 2010.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original material requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Harlem on My Mind exhibition records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Harlem on My Mind exhibition records, 1966-2007. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1967-2007
(Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)

Allon Schoener's correspondence includes all aspects of production and coordination of the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, including managerial, procedural and curatorial issues. Correspondence also documents the public's response to the controversial Candice Van Ellison catalog introduction and includes letters of support for the exhibition. Notable correspondents include photographer Todd Webb and Thomas Hoving, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; as well as correspondence from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York State Council on the Arts, Library of Congress, Life Magazine, and Underwood and Underwood News Photos, Inc. Also included are memoranda from Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York State Council on the Arts, and a letter of congratulations from U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel, author of the foreword to the 2007 edition of Harlem on My Mind.

Box Folder
1 1-3 General, 1967-1969
(3 folders)
1 4 In Response to Candice Van Ellison's Introduction, 1969
1 5 In Support of Exhibition, 1969
(photocopies)
1 6 Tenth Anniversary of Exhibition, 1978-1979
1 7 Susan Cahan, 2001
1 8 Stephen Dubin, 1998-1999
1 9 George Magazine, 1998-1999,
1 10 Charles B. Rangel, 2007

Series 2: Exhibition Files, Harlem on My Mind, 1967-1969
(Box 1; 0.9 linear feet)

Exhibition files for the original "Harlem on My Mind" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1968-1969, document awards, budgets, construction and installation notes, floor plans, installation logs, interview and photographic topics, invoices, notes, photographs, progress reports, public relations schedules, research, scheduling, slide projections, sound script, statistics, titles, printed material and audio for exhibition.

The file on the exhibition's budget includes correspondence, budget reports, lists of materials and resources, and notes for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 1969 exhibition.

Photographs include images that were either used or considered for the 1969 exhibition, as well as oversized contact sheets of the exhibition's installation.

Invoices are filed numerically, using Schoener's numbering system.

Box Folder
1 11 Award, undated
1 12 Budget, 1967-1969
1 13 Closed Circuit Television Facility, 1968
1 14 Community Advisory Committee, 1968
1 15 Construction and Installation Notes, 1968-1969
1 16 Floor Plan, 1968
(oversized material housed in OV 6)
1 17 Installation Log, 1969
1 18 Interview and Photographic Topics, 1968
1 19 Invoices, 1968-1969
(original collation retained)
1 20 Notes, undated
1 21 Photograph and Slide List, 1968
1 22 Photographs, undated
1 23 Installation Photographs, undated
(oversized material housed in Box 5)
1 24 Photography Research, 1967-1968
1 Photocopies of Photographs
1 25-26 Harlem on My Mind Exhibition, 1968-1969
(2 folders)
1 27 Bill Miles Notebooks, undated
1 28 New York Public Library, undated
1 29 Progress Report, 1968
1 30 Public Relations Schedule, 1968
1 Research
1 31 Historical Note, undated
1 32 Historical Note and Chronology, undated
1 33 Printed Material, Harlem: A Study in Depth, undated
1 34 Scheduling, 1968
1 35 Slide Projections, 1968
1 36 Sound Script, 1968
1 37 Statistics, 1968
1 38 Titles, 1968
1 Printed Material
1 39 Exhibition Announcements and Invitations, 1968
1 40 Poster for "Harlem on My Mind" Exhibition, undated
1 41 Audio for Exhibition, undated
(cassette tape, CD, and 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record; oversized material housed in Box 5)
Box
5 Installation Photographs, 1969
5 Audio for Exhibition, undated
(cassette tape, CD, and 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record)
Floor Plan, 1968

Series 3: "Harlem on My Mind" Re-creation, 1978-2007
(Box 1-2; 0.3 linear feet)

"Harlem on My Mind" re-creation files consist of correspondence, project outline, and exhibition files including: Harlem: USA/International Traveling Exhibition and Cultural Festival, 1985-1987; Columbia University Exhibition, 2006-2007; and I. P. Stanback Museum Exhibition, 2006-2007.

The correspondence concerns various versions of planned re-creations of "Harlem on My Mind," some of which never came to fruition.

Box Folder
1 42-44 Correspondence, 1978-1995
(3 folders)
Box Folder
2 1-2 Correspondence, 1995-1996, undated
(2 folders)
2 3 Project Outline for New Exhibition, 1995, undated
2 4 Harlem: USA/International Traveling Exhibition and Cultural Festival, 1985-1987
2 5 Columbia University Exhibition, 2006-2007
2 6 I. P. Stanback Museum Exhibition, 2006-2007
2 7 Photography List, undated

Series 4: Harlem on My Mind Book, 1967-2007,
(Box 2; 0.3 linear feet)

Harlem on My Mind book files consist of correspondence and documents including: New Press, invoices, outline, payments, permissions, royalty statements, notes and writings. Correspondence documents the challenges of publishing several editions with different publishers over three decades, and includes book contracts from Random House and Dell Publishing (Delacorte Press). There is correspondence with Random House and Grove Press regarding disputed ownership rights to Harlem on My Mind. Among the notable correspondents are Thomas Hoving, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and photographer James Van Der Zee, known for his portraits of African-American New Yorkers.

Box Folder
2 Correspondence
2 8-9 General, 1967-1999, undated
2 10 William J. Clinton, 2002
2 11 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 1993-1995
2 12 New Press, 1993-2007
2 13 Invoices 1968-1969
2 14 Outline, undated
2 15 Payments, undated
2 16-17 Permissions and Reproduction Rights, 1968-1979, undated
(2 folders; oversized material housed in Box 5)
2 18 Royalty Statements, 1969-1982
2 Notes
2 19 Budget, undated
2 20 Chronology of African-American History, undated
2 21 Miscellaneous, 1977-1978
2 Writings
2 22 Introduction Statements, 1969
2 23 Forewords and Introduction, 1995, undated
2 24 From Pariah to Hero by Allon Schoener, 2007
Box
5 Permissions and Reproduction Rights, 1968-1979, undated

Series 5: Conferences and Events, 1978-2007,
(Box 2-3; 0.8 linear feet)

Conferences and events include: "Harlem: The Last Ten Years," International Center of Photography, 1978-1979; Post Modernism Conference, Brooklyn Academy of Music; "Global Cities," 1985-1992; Schomburg Conference, 1993-1999; "A Walk Through Harlem," Schomburg Center, 1999; "The (Un)making of the Black Cultural Mecca," the New School, 2003; "Harlem Displaced" and "Harlem in Our Eyes," Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, 1999-2006; and "Harlem Then and Now," Schomburg Center, 2007.

Box Folder
2 25 Harlem: The Last Ten Years, International Center of Photography, 1978-1979
2 Post Modernism Conference, Brooklyn Academy of Music
2 26-27 Correspondence, 1985-1988
(2 folders)
2 28 Program Committee, 1985-1987
2 29 Proposal and Outline, 1985-1986
2 30 Book Proposal, The Post Modernism World, 1986-1988
2 31 Floor Plans, 1986
(oversized material housed in OV 6)
2 Writings
2 32 Impasse Post-Moderne et Transition Post-Media, undated
2 33 Une Critique de l'Exposition Les Immatériaux," undated
2 34 Printed Material, Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1985-1987
2 35 Photographs, Polaroids of Theater, undated
2 Global Cities Event
2 36 Correspondence, 1985-1992
2 37 Proposal, 1987-1988
2 38 Budget, 1990
2 39 Notes and Printed Material, undated
Box Folder
3 1-2 Schomburg Conference, 1993-1999, undated
3 3 A Walk Through Harlem, Schomburg Center, 1999
3 4 The (Un)making of the Black Cultural Mecca, The New School, 2003
3 5 "Harlem Displaced" and "Harlem in Our Eyes," Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, 1999-2006
3 6 "Harlem Then and Now," Schomburg Center, 2007
Post Modernism Conference, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Floor Plans, 1986

Series 6: Printed Material, 1968-2007
(Box 3; 0.3 linear feet)

Printed material includes newspaper and magazine clippings about the original exhibition and its impact over the years, as well as material researched by Schoener. Also found are three editions of Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America 1900-1968 (1979, 1995 and 2007), and a book jacket for the 1968 edition.

Box Folder
3 7 Book Jacket, Harlem on My Mind Cultural Capital of Black America 1900-1968, 1968
3 8-9 Books, Harlem on My Mind Cultural Capital of Black America 1900-1968, 1979-2007
(2 folders)
Box Folder
4 Newspapers and Magazine Clippings
4 1 Harlem on My Mind, circa 1967-2007
4 2 Research, circa 1966-1993