Established as the voice of the African American Museums Movement, the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to serving the interests and needs of Black museums and cultural institutions nationwide. Membership is comprised of museums, museum professionals, institutions, and individuals that share an interest in African American art, culture, and history. Through training opportunities and member services, AAAM supports the goals of African American museums and museum professionals.
AAAM works as an advocate for the interests of institutions and individuals committed to the support of African and African derived cultures. It defines a relationship for the body of such institutions within the national museum community, and seeks to strengthen such institutions through improved communication, shared resources, training, annual conferences, technical aid and assistance, and through fund raising guidance. The Association also provides, through newsletters, placement bureaus, etc., services supportive for the professional needs of its membership.
The Association of African American Museums includes cultural organizations, historical societies and museums which not only collect, preserve, and exhibit objects valuable to art, history and science, but also educational institutions, research agencies and cultural centers.
AAAM seeks to advance all of the agendas of our member institutions. The membership shares a common core of knowledge, sense of purpose, and code of ethics that enhance their educational and scholarly attainments.
AAAM supports opportunities for sound professional preparation and provides outlets for research and publications as well as foster the continued improvement of the profession through the development and observance of high standards and ethics.
Our Roots Run Deep
The African American Museum Movement emerged during the 1950s and 1960s to preserve the heritage of the Black experience and to ensure its proper interpretation in American history. Black museums instilled a sense of achievement within Black communities, while encouraging collaborations between Black communities and the broader public. Most importantly, the African American Museums Movement inspired new contributions to society and advanced cultural awareness.
Laying the Foundation
In the late 1960s, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, founder of the DuSable Museum in Chicago, and Dr. Charles H. Wright, founder of the Museum of African American History in Detroit, initiated a series of conferences for Black museums. The National Association of Museums and Cultural Organizations and the Black Museums Conference, the first informal Black museum association, evolved from these conferences.
In 1978, a consortium of six Black museums, with funding from the National Museum Act (administered by the Smithsonian Institution), presented a series of conferences at participating institutions. These conferences provided the opportunity for an ad hoc committee to lay the groundwork for still another organization. Under the chairmanship of E. Barry Gaither, the committee prepared by-laws, which were ratified in Detroit in February of 1978.
The new organization adopted the name “African American Museums Association” (AAMA), and elected its first governing council. AAMA’s first office was at the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists in Boston, Massachusetts.
During the General Session of the 1997 AAMA Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, the members present voted to legally change the name to “Association of African American Museums,” dissolving the former name of AAMA. A committee was elected to initiate and complete the name change procedures. Members of the committee included: Dr. John Fleming, Committee Chair; Waverly Glover, CPA; William Billingsley, Acting Operations Officer – New Organization, AAAM; and Robert E. Harley, Attorney at Law/Taxation, Ohio. The organization became official in 1998 and Rita Organ was elected president of the Association of African American Museums at the 1998 AAAM Annual Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.