City of Tallahassee, FL

11/16/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/16/2021 13:49

City’s John G. Riley Museum Awarded $246,250 Grant for Archival Digitization Project Partnership

November 16, 2021

The City of Tallahassee's John G. Riley Center and Museum of African American History and Culture was recently awarded a three-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museum Grant for African American History and Culture. The $246,250 grant will support cross-organizational efforts to digitize its vast archival collection in partnership with the Florida State University Libraries and the Riley Museum Archives at Tallahassee Community College.

Core to the mission of each organization in the partnership is sharing the stories of people in the communities. For over a decade, the Riley Center has strived to make its archival collections more accessible to the public. Through open hours, exhibitions, public programming, classroom engagement and publication, the museum has connected people to these important resources.

The collaboration between the Riley Center, FSU Libraries, TCC and a project consultant will improve access through digitization of a collection that includes photos, historic documents, rare books, oral histories and a variety of artifacts documenting the history of Black Floridians, with a focus on Leon and Gadsden counties.

"We are excited to get to work digitizing materials and to see this collaboration, which has been years in development, take off," said Katie McCormick, Associate Dean of Libraries for Special Collections and Archives at Florida State University. "We are grateful to our partners and to IMLS for supporting this important project."

In addition to digitizing the Riley Center's archival collection, the grant will also provide training for members of the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (FAAHPN). A two-day workshop will be held for 32 other African American museums in Florida to share best practices for creating digital projects, including planning and management, assessment and selection of materials and identification of available descriptions for metadata.

The metadata generated from the digitization of the collection will also be shared with the Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN), the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) hub for Florida. The SSDN creates a collaborative statewide digital collections network of cultural heritage organizations to showcase Florida's digital collections worldwide.

Concern about the preservation and accessibility of community history 25 years ago led Riley Museum Founder and Executive Director Emeritus Althemese Barnes to conduct community oral histories, begin work to collect the Riley Archives and find ongoing funding to support the long-term viability of the effort.

"This current award is a next important step in creating access to people's stories. These are the stories of the people who built our community. They are irreplaceable," Barnes said. "This is our way to carry important lessons through time. An IMLS grant in 2010 was the first to provide support to train 10 FAAPHN museums on the basics of archival preservation, inventory and cataloging. Now, with IMLS support for digitization and training, we will be able to bring the stories into classrooms and homes."

Research, education and discovery remain the mission of the John G. Riley Center and Museum, which is achieved through educational programs, tours and exhibits that bring awareness to and appreciation for the contributions of African Americans to society. It is located at 419 E. Jefferson Street and is operated under the umbrella of the City of Tallahassee's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs Department. For more information, visit

For information about the Florida State University Libraries and its Division of Special Collections and Archives, visit

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. They advance, support and empower America's museums, libraries and related organizations through grantmaking, research and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact Information

Alison Faris, Communications Department, 850-891-8533