Loss/Capture In Conversation: Vivian G. Harsh’s Life and Legacy with Dr. Melanie Chambliss and Tracy Drake

Hailed as Chicago’s first Black librarian, Vivian G. Harsh was the curator and Black heritage advocate behind the Special Negro Collection at the Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library, the largest collection of its kind in the Midwest. In this edition of the Loss/Capture In Conversation, listen as scholar Dr. Melanie Chambliss and archivist Tracy Drake discuss the work they’ve done to illuminate Harsh’s story and call attention to the collection, which is now named for her and housed at the Woodson Regional Library.

Melanie Chambliss is assistant professor of history at Columbia College Chicago. Her in-progress manuscript, "Saving the Race: Black Archives, Black Liberation, and the Remaking of Modernity" explores the founding and impact of early twentieth century black archives. She has a forthcoming article in the Journal of African American History on the life and legacy of Chicago public librarian Vivian Harsh. She also has an essay on the early years of the Moorland Foundation Library at Howard University in the edited collection The Unfinished Book.

Tracy Drake is an archivist at Reed College, focused on acquiring, preserving, and providing access to the historical and cultural records of the college. As an information professional, Tracy strives to provide equitable access to the stories of the Black experience. In 2018, she was chosen as a member of the American Library Association class of Emerging Leaders. Her scholarship and research is centered on the practice of radical empathy and anti-racism in society and information. She is also co-founder of the Blackivists collective, a group of trained Black archivists who prioritize Black cultural heritage preservation and memory work.