By Tucker Henderson
February is annually observed as Black History Month and in recognition of the occasion, the New York Mills Public Library is hosting the TESTIFY: Americana from Slavery to Today photo exhibit during the entire month.
Along with the many photo banners that showcase each artifact from the Diane and Alan Page collection, companion programs will also be available to learn more about black history. Starting off with a discussion on the film “Who We Are” last week, the library invites the community to join them with the second two programs, a history presentation and a book discussion later on in the month.
Missy Hermes, Education Coordinator at the Otter Tail County Historical Society, will be presenting on Black History of Otter Tail County on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 10:30 a.m. at the Library. Readers from 16 years old and up are invited to partake in the book discussion of “All American Boys” on Monday, Feb. 26 at either 3 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. at the Library. Both companion programs are free and open to the public with a request to preregister beforehand so that the library is able to accommodate each and every participant.
“The exhibit does take up some floor space,” said Julie Adams, Library Director. “I want to be able to make sure I have enough chairs and everything set up. Then of course, the book discussion, you want to be able to check out the book in advance.”
The TESTIFY exhibit began in 2018 when Minnesota state Supreme Court judge, Alan Page, with his wife, Diane, loaned artifacts to the Hennepin County Library for an exhibit. The exhibit was so well received that libraries across the state requested to be loaned the artifacts for their own showcase. With such a high demand and risk of damaging the artifacts, the Pages decided to make a photo exhibit out of them so that all libraries were able to showcase the pieces.
“As adults, we’re all life-long learners,” said Adams. “So learning about history or relearning history is very important as we learn more about different things that have happened in our United States history. It’s eye opening.”
The exhibit, which consists of large banners set up around the library, will have descriptors for each photo, creating a tour of black Americana through the years. Both the exhibit and companion programs were made possible through the Minnesota Legacy Amendment as well as Viking Library System.
Each library system in the state has their own set of banners for the exhibit and NY Mills happens to be the second library in the Viking Library System to present the exhibit after Wheaton recently held theirs.
“Being able to get this exhibit in the first place is exciting for us because it’s definitely something we’ve never had the opportunity to do here before,” said Adams. “Plus being able to get it during February, which is Black History Month, is amazing.
“Viking Library System is the sponsor of it and the banners were actually made with Legacy funds,” Adams continued. “I have invited classrooms to come and tour through. I really do hope that everybody will stop by and take some time to look through the exhibit. This is the first time we’ve ever had any kind of a museum quality programming here at the library.”