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Smithsonian taps museum advisers
Two members of U.S. National Slavery Museum's board join Smithsonian's African-American history project


Date published: 12/9/2004

By PAMELA GOULD

Two members of the U.S. National Slavery Museum's board have been tapped to help create the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

But while there are some competitive aspects to the two projects, a museum professional and the U.S. National Slavery Museum's spokesman don't view the dual roles of Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert and historian John Hope Franklin as conflicting.

"I would say, if anything, it would be a positive," said James Damron, spokesman for the U.S. National Slavery Museum, which is to be built in Fredericksburg.

Damron sees the potential for collaboration and a synergistic relationship from the overlapping responsibilities.

Nikki DeJesus, a museum consultant who helped develop the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History in Baltimore, agreed with Damron's assessment. She sees the Smithsonian's museum working in collaboration with other museums across the country that tell part of its story.

"I think there has to be connections made between the [Smithsonian's] African-American history museum and other museums," DeJesus said. "While there might be a natural overlap in some content, I don't think it will necessarily be competitive."

Swygert was one of 19 people named Tuesday to the founding council of the Smithsonian museum. Most of the others are chief executives of major corporations, but two are top names from the entertainment field: Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey.

Franklin, a professor emeritus at Duke University, was one of five people named to a scholarly advisory committee.

Swygert and Franklin are two of the seven members of the U.S. National Slavery Museum's board. That museum was founded by L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia's former governor, now the mayor-elect of Richmond.

Swygert was out of town and unavailable for comment yesterday, a university spokeswoman said.

Franklin said he sees his role with the Smithsonian project as limited--especially compared with his involvement with the U.S. National Slavery Museum.

"They will call me sometimes and ask me something," Franklin predicted of the Smithsonian, "whereas I consider I'm on the board of the National Slavery Museum. I'm piddling, meddling [there] all of the time."

Franklin also noted that the two museums have different missions.


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