Eliminating racial boundaries is something Diamond Blaylock-Norris is committed to doing in her lifetime. The McPherson College junior is taking a step in pursuing that goal with an exhibit she helped create at the McPherson Museum, titled “Social Change: Then & Now.” The exhibit is part of several exhibits on display in February at the museum to celebrate Black History Month.
“This museum exhibit has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “I’m pretty spontaneous and I just walked in one day and asked if I could do it.”
Blaylock-Norris, a history major at the college, did most of the research for the exhibit, developed a plan for it, and worked with museum staff to create the concept and build it. Anna Ruxlow, director of the museum, is pleased with the final result.
“It’s a great conversation starter,” Ruxlow said. “We have received really positive feedback from our visitors. I’ve lived in McPherson County my entire life and I have learned a lot from the exhibit.”
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a recreation of a 1950’s drug store counter and represents a real-life event that happened in Wichita, Kansas at Dockhum Drug Store. In July 1958, Dockhum’s was the site of one of America’s first sit-ins, a nonviolent tactic that was pivotal during the Civil Rights Movement. Larger and more well-known sit-ins occurred later in the 1960s. The exhibit features an audio recording of a sit-in to give viewers an interactive experience.
“The recording really puts you in the scene,” Blaylock-Norris said. “I think there is so much about Kansas that people don’t know.”
The exhibit also explores social change closer to home with photos from the All-Schools Day parade depicting change from Ku Klux Klan marchers in the 1920s to how different cultures have been incorporated in more recent years. Another portion of the exhibit includes a story told by a man whose father helped save his neighbor from a potential KKK threat near Galva in 1917 when he recognized the shoes of one of the hooded klansmen.
“My main objective was educational,” Blaylock-Norris said. “It’s really about just letting people see how much we have overcome, but that we still have a way to go.”
The exhibit is a nice companion to the other two exhibits currently on display at the museum. In the front entry, cultural artifacts from the Church of the Brethren missionaries in Africa and China display the work of the church in those countries. Also, a traveling exhibit from the Kauffman Museum in Newton titled, “Sorting Out Race,” examines racial imagery through thrift store donations.
Blaylock-Norris plans to continue her education after she graduates from McPherson College to become a social worker. She participates in track and field, is a student ambassador, an executive board member of the Student Government Association and plans to run for student body president later this spring. She is also considering continuing her work at the museum.
“Maybe, I’d like to volunteer to do tours for third graders,” she said.