MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An exhibit at a University of Minnesota library is celebrating African-American history.

The exhibit, titled “Digging up the Past,” is a culmination of efforts to digitize documents, pictures and manuscripts that highlight African-American history.

Walking into the Elmer L. Anderson Library on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota is like taking a step back in time.

Many of the materials in the library were buried in archives for decades and labeled in a way that made them difficult to find.

“Each of these cases brings a different kind of experience,” said Wendy Lougee, the university’s dead of libraries.

Digging Up the Past features artifacts from Civil Rights to documents of racism. They were collected from 15 different areas of archives and are now digitized as part of Umbra Search African American History.

“The word umbra is the darkest part of the shadow of the moon, and it really reflects, in a way, the hidden history,” Lougee said. “Umbra is all about revealing that history.”

Umbra hopes to document more than 500,000 artifacts and put it all together. It’s like Google for all things pertaining to African-American history.

“Our performing arts archive includes Penumbra Theater archives, so we have materials from August Wilson as well as a number of productions at the Guthrie,” Lougee said.

Books from the Givens Collection of African-American Literature are on display in Digging up the Past. One of the books is from Phyllis Wheatley, the first African-American poet published.

But not all that is shown will leave you with a warm feeling.

“See some things that are stereotypical, things that represent slavery,” Lougee said. “There is a slave manifest over in that case and another one relating to the health of slaves in cargo ships.”

The exhibit runs through early May.

Reg Chapman


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