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Harlem on My Mind exhibition records, 1966-2007

Harlem on My Mind exhibition records, 1966-2007

Schoener, Allon, 1926-

Historian, Author

Collection Information

Size: 3.0 linear feet

Summary: 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 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.

Biographical/Historical Note

Allon Schoener (1926- ) is an independent curator and historian in New York, N.Y. and Los Angeles, Calif.


Donated 2009 by Allon Schoener.

A Finding Aid to the
Harlem on My Mind
exhibition records,
in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
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.
Most material is arranged chornologically unless noted otherwise in the series description.
Harlem on My Mind
exhibition records are organized into 6 series.
Series 1: Correspondence, 1967-2007 (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 2: Exhibition Files,
Harlem on My Mind
, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1967-1969 (Box 1; 0.9 linear feet)
Series 3:
Harlem on My Mind
Re-creation, 1978-2007 (Box 1-2; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 4:
Harlem on My Mind
Book, 1967-2007 (Box 2; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 5: Conferences and Events, 1978-2007 (Box 2-3; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1968-2007 (Box 3; 0.3 linear feet)
Donated 2009 by Allon Schoener.
Processing Information
The papers were processed by Justin Brancato in 2010.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

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

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