Austin’s New African American Archivist Integrates History and Community

“I love everything about blackness, and I gravitate to it,” exactly the sentiment you hope for from kYmberly Keeton, the new African American archivist at the Austin History Center.

She wants people to know that despite her title, she is first and foremost a librarian. “Archivists are behind the scenes,” the Fort Worth native explained, “and a 21st-century librarian is in front of the scenes. We’re more embedded within our community.”

I love everything about blackness, and I gravitate to it

It’s likely her library science background and love of her people that drives Keeton to integrate the Austin History Center into community life. For the month of February, She’s planned several public conversations, moderated forums, and exhibits that highlight the legacy of African Americans in Austin. 

Her first event is a moderated discussion Post Gentrification: Continuing the African American Narrative in Austin. “When I got here, people were pretty much talking about gentrification,” the archivist said. “I think we need to get past that and talk about what is the black narrative going to be.” 

At the forum, panelists will discuss their views on African American history and explore the Black community’s future in the state capital. It will be held February 7 at 6:30 in the Holt Gallery of the Austin History Center, located at 810 Guadalupe St. This event is free and open to the public. Come early because seating is limited and the event must end precisely at 8:30.

For Black History Month, Keeton worked with the Smithsonian to make Austin a stop for the traveling exhibit A Place for All People. This collection of commemorative poster art from the National Museum of African American History will be displayed on the third floor of the Main Library branch through March 31. The posters highlight key artifacts that tell the rich and diverse story of the African American experience. 

Keeton planned two community lectures for February 6 and 20 entitled The Black Farmer Files: A Retrospective Look at African American Farming in Austin, Texas from the 1800s to Present. The lectures will be held at the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller. There will be displays and free samples from the market.

If you’ve wanted to work on your family tree, consider enrolling in one of Keeton’s genealogy workshops at the Carver Branch Library in East Austin on February 12 and 19. The first session is for novice researchers and the second is designated for people with intermediate to advanced skills. All attendees must RSVP to kymberly.keeton@austintexas.gov and indicate which session they’d like to attend.

Pflugerville is an important part of Austin’s black history and future so Keeton established a collaborative partnership with the Pflugerville Branch Library. The Pop-Up African American Archives Information & Creative Sessions will begin February 28 at the Pflugerville Branch Library. This is a continuous series where the public can learn about Austin History Center’s African American Archives, their 2019 Black History agenda, current exhibitions, and monthly programming. 

kYmberly Keeton’s work is proof that “Everybody needs a librarian in their life.”

As Austin History Center’s African American Community Archivist, Keeton seeks out archival materials from the African American community in Austin and Travis County. She also gives presentations, conducts oral history interviews, coordinates events, provides reference services and is a specialist in the history of Austin’s African American community. 

 

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