Three luxury buses full of museum curators, CEOs, founders and representatives arrived on Hampton University’s campus Friday night, August 10, 2018, to celebrate and culminate the week-long 40th Anniversary Conference of the Association of African American Museums during the “Summer Breeze: An All White Party.”
“What an absolutely amazing year this has been with Hampton University celebrating our 150th Anniversary of its founding, as well as my 40th year as Hampton University President, plus Hampton University Museum’s 150th anniversary and the Association of African American Museum’s 40th anniversary of its annual conference,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey. “We are overjoyed to host all these wonderful people for their final gathering of this year’s conference and hope they have enjoyed visiting our ‘Home by the Sea.’”
Hampton University’s brass band, marching band, and Ebony Fire Dance Team welcomed the museum members with music and dance New Orleans jazz style, complete with the dance team donning white and carrying white umbrellas. The Museum offered refreshments and snacks while conference attendees could peruse the collections inside the Museum.
After a while, the visitors, dressed all in white, walked to the University Café to continue the celebration with food, drinks, music and dancing. “I feel like the red carpet has been rolled out, the food is wonderful, the school band was out here and it’s just our way to wrap up the conference and a chance for everybody to show their gratitude, the Host Committee, the Board, everyone who comes together for this wonderful networking and professional development opportunity,” said Brian Carter, Board President of the Association of African American Museums.
Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward, Director of Hampton University Museum and Archives, started the evening off with a heartfelt thank you. “I want to thank first of all the African American Museums for letting us host the 40th Anniversary of the Association and it’s really special because we are hosting this during the 40th Anniversary of our President, Dr.William R. Harvey, and Mrs. Norma B. Harvey, who also served as our Honorary Chair,” said Dr. Thaxton-Ward. “We are also very grateful that you all decided to come to Hampton University, our ‘Home by the Sea,’ and now your ‘Home by the Sea’ as we culminate the 150th Anniversary of the University and the Hampton University Museum, founded in 1868.”
The Mayor of the city of Hampton, Donnie Tuck, was also there to welcome the attendees. “We just want to welcome you, we have a great city and I think about the visionary leadership of General Armstrong, who founded the University back in 1868, he had the vision and foresight to establish a museum and in fact the Hampton University Museum is the oldest African American Museum in the country and has one of the largest African American collections in the country,” Tuck said. “When Dr. Harvey came here in 1978, and in his book ‘Principles of Leadership,’ he talks about the fact that Hampton University had a number of financial challenges, but his vision was still to have a cultural center, a community for Hampton University students and so he kept the Museum.”
The week-long conference and culminating White Party gave participants chances to collaborate, learn about other museums, talk with each other, and make life-long friends. “Because of the richness of the history of which we have, it was important for us to connect with those who had gone through the same struggles as us starting an African American museum, as well as connecting those who are going through the struggle of telling their story,” said Rosalind Withers, Executive Director and Founder of the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee.
The White Party was a true success, as well as the 40th Conference of the Association of African American Museums. “Thank you to Hampton University, specifically to the Museum here on campus and Dr.Thaxton-Ward for all that she did, and the Host Committee did to welcome us and have a really professional, organized and still friendly and really lovely conference for us, so thank you to the University and congratulations on their anniversary,” said Carter.