NSU Archives played role in Clementine Hunter Smithsonian exhibition


NATCHITOCHES – The National Museum of African American History and Culture utilized the Cammie G. Henry Research Center at Northwestern State University in preparation for the exhibition “Clementine Hunter: Life on Melrose Plantation,” a look at the life of the Natchitoches folk artist set to open Saturday, Aug. 25.


“While visiting the NSU Cammie G. Henry Research Center, the Smithsonian researchers searched through several Melrose Collection documents, scrapbooks, bound volumes and photographs,” said University Archivist Mary Linn Wernet.  “The research team found several items that depicted life on Melrose Plantation.  Selected items were scanned and electronically sent to the Smithsonian for the exhibition.


Tuliza Fleming assembled the group of 13 paintings from the museum’s collection of 22 artworks by the artist.


The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African-American story and its impact on American and world history.  The 400,000-square-foot museum opened in 2016 on the National Mall next to the Washington Monument.


Hunter (1887-1988) was born in Natchitoches Parish when the rigors of sharecropping and plantation labor, the highs and lows of daily life, and the role of the church as a source of spiritual support were common experiences for many African Americans. Hunter began painting in her early 50s and drew inspiration from her memories of living and working at Melrose Plantation. She created thousands of artworks during her career and ranks amongst America’s most celebrated painters of southern life.


Hunter lived and worked on Melrose from the age of 15, when her parents moved there from a neighboring plantation. Her paintings of the day-to-day operations of its working folk were taken as much from personal experience as from casual observation. The exhibition highlights three major themes in her visual repertoire: religion, daily life, and the plantation landscape.  “Clementine Hunter: Life on Melrose Plantation” celebrates Hunter’s life, her community and her memories through the narrative of her art.


The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. admission is free.  For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.


NSU’s Cammie G. Henry Research Center is located on the third floor of Eugene P. Watson Memorial Library and is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-noon Fridays.  The Research Center is named after Carmelite “Cammie” Garrett Henry (1871-1948) of Melrose, who collected Louisiana documents and books of rare fictional and non-fictional works. The research center has Louisiana books, rare books, archival materials, NSU Archives, microfilm, maps, newspapers, and oral history tapes.


Information on the Cammie G. Henry Research Center is available at Watson.nsula.edu/Melrose.