The Black Metropolis Research Consortium: Fifteen Years of Preserving and Documenting Black History and Culture in Chicago

Curated by Marcia Walker-McWilliams, Executive Director of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium

The Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) is a Chicago-based membership association that aids in expanding broad access to its members’ holdings of materials that document African American and African diasporic history, politics and culture, with a specific focus on materials relating to Chicago. Our members include universities, libraries, museums, community, arts-based and government archives. It is the mission of the BMRC to connect all who seek to document, share, understand and preserve Black experiences.

The BMRC was founded at the University of Chicago, which serves as the consortium’s host institution. In 2003, faculty members at the university started discussing and devising ways to address a common problem—difficulty accessing African Americanist archival materials in Chicago that were essential to their research. Among these faculty were Danielle Allen, then a Professor in Classics, and Jacqueline Goldsby, then a Professor in English Language & Literature and the College. Over the next three years, a series of meetings took place between University of Chicago faculty and archivists from area institutions with significant African American holdings, including the Chicago Public Library’s Vivian Harsh Research Collection, the DuSable Museum of African American History and Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Black Music Research.

Through these discussions it was decided that the best course of action for addressing the many factors that hindered accessibility to collections would be an active collaboration among institutions, archivists and researchers. These discussions resulted in several multi-institution archival initiatives: Mapping the Stacks, Uncovering Chicago Archives Project (UNCAP) and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. The BMRC was initiated in the spring of 2006 at a meeting of chief executives and representatives from fifteen Chicago area institutions who supported the formation of a collaborative effort to make African Americanist collections more broadly accessible to researchers. Danielle Allen, then Dean of the Division of Humanities at the University of Chicago, led the meeting. The BMRC was formerly launched on July 1, 2006.

In 2021, the BMRC celebrates its 15th anniversary. This exhibit documents the origins of the BMRC, its efforts to aid discoverability and access to Black historical collections, and the consortium’s flagship Summer Short-term Fellowship and Archie Motley Archival Internship programs.

Exhibit Publications & Documents

Exhibit Text