What is your role at the Museum?
My role at the Museum is to collaborate with amazing talents across the Exhibits, Education, and Programs divisions to develop projects that connect to our collections, engage diverse audiences, and support the mission of the Museum.
Who is the woman from history you most admire and why?
No question it is Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). She is best known as one of the members of the “Harlem Renaissance,” a historic literary and cultural movement in New York City’s early twentieth century whose members included Langston Hughes, Arturo Schomburg, and A. Philip Randolph.
Born in the Jim Crow South, Hurston was one of the first Black women to attend Barnard College/Columbia University and study with the “father” of American anthropology, Franz Boas. Together, they worked to bring anthropology out of its origins in colonialism and examine the concept of the anthropologist as both observer & participant. Hurston conducted most of her fieldwork in communities of the Black rural south and especially her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-Black incorporated communities in the U.S.
Introduced to her work when I studied anthropology at Barnard, I made Hurston the subject of my master’s research. Delving into her archives at the Schomburg and the Library of Congress and even discovering some “lost” film materials during, I came to admire her pioneering and productive work in so many fields of arts and social sciences. She documented community folklore through notetaking and audio recordings, wrote fiction and autobiography, created compositions in theater and dance, and was an innovator in the use of film in anthropological fieldwork. She made major contributions to the American arts and social sciences while tirelessly dealing with racism.
How did your heroine inspire you and what are the lessons you learned that you incorporate into your job function at the Museum or elsewhere in your life?
No one who becomes familiar with Hurston can help but be inspired by her enormous passion to explore and examine the connections between the individual and their own and the world’s history and culture. She could both critique and create, not just through academic studies but through her masterful genius for storytelling.
I found particularly inspiring her pioneering work telling stories in different media—novels, short stories, theater, art, recording, film, and even songs—in order to engage a wide range of audiences.
I feel fortunate that at the Intrepid Museum, I’m able to collaborate with talented colleagues across so many disciplines to find the multiple ways to tell history and STEAM stories in exhibits and programs and speak, as Hurston did, to many audiences.