Saturday, January 17, 2009

Home Depot's "Dream" for MLK Papers

A few minutes ago, I was reading the Washington Post online and was stunned to encounter a Home Depot banner ad relevant to the world of archives: "Purchase this gift card, and we'll make a donation toward building a permanent home for the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers."

Clicking the ad took me to a Home Depot page outlining the promotion: purchase a special collector's edition "Dream" gift card between 9 January and 28 February 2009, and the Home Depot Foundation will donate 5 percent of the value placed on the card to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which will become the "permanent exhibition home for the personal writings and papers of Dr. King."

From an archivist's point of view, the satisfying thing about this page is that it includes a brief description of the King Papers:
. . . . The extensive collection of original documents by Dr. King includes more than 10,000 items, among them 7,000 handwritten notes.

The papers span from 1946 to 1968, an especially active period in King's life, and include drafts of his "I Have a Dream" speech, his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," other theological writings and his Nobel Peace Prize addresses . . . .
The page also includes links to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, the King Collection at Morehouse College, which holds the King Papers, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which, when finished, will document global civil rights and human rights struggles, with particular emphasis upon events that took place in Atlanta and Georgia.

Finally, the page points out the role that the Home Depot played in bringing the King Papers, which came harrowingly close to being broken up and auctioned off, to Morehouse College; given that the company has donated $1,150,000 to date and will give up to $1,000,000 more as a result of this gift card promotion, I suppose it's entitled to a bit of trumpet-blowing.

I know that corporate sponsorship of archives might, in some instances, have too many strings attached, but I'm really happy that Home Depot has made such an extensive commitment to preserving and raising the public profile of the King Papers. Explaining the value of the King Papers helps, in an indirect but very real way, to explain the importance of archives and manuscripts in general, and I hope that other corporations start seeing the preservation and provision of access to archival and manuscript collections as worthy of their support.

I don't spend a lot of time in Home Depot -- largely because I don't own a home -- but I'm starting to think about picking up a few "Dream" cards and using them as 2009 birthday, etc., gifts. Several people on my gift list will happily take advantage of any opportunity to ogle power tools, and all of them will be pleased to learn that the cards come with the added bonus of helping to preserve one of the nation's most significant collections of 20th century historical records.

Of course, not everyone has friends and family who rhapsodize over drills, saws, and routers, and some people simply prefer to shop elsewhere. Folks who want to see the King Papers preserved and made accessible but who don't need any gift cards can donate directly to the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which oversees the King Papers Project, or to the Center for Civil and Human Rights Partnership.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article!Kudos to Home Depot and their leadership for continuing to remain stewards of the King legacy. From my understanding, there are additional incentives available if you purchase bulk quantities of the commemorative card. For more information you can contact