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On April 25-26, 2008 the Government of Liberia through its Permanent Mission at the United Nations in New York and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, co-sponsored a symposium on Liberian National Identity: Rebuilding the National Archives, National Library and National Museum..  The symposium took place at the Schomburg Center on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem, New York.

On Friday April 25 participants were welcomed by Co-Hosts Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, Coordinator of Liberia Archives Project on behalf of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Liberia at the United Nations in New York and Howard Dodson, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  Dr. Barnes, in her welcome remarks, shared a West African spider story in which the moral clearly expressed the reason for the gathering.  The moral of the story was that no individual has a monopoly on wisdom and, as such, it was necessary for each invited participant to contribute his or her expertise and experience as the group attempted to identify key recommendations to the Liberian Government in its quest to re-vitalize the National Archives, Museum and Library of Liberia.  Mr.  Dodson described the mandate of the Schomburg Center which is to research and preserve the history and culture of Africans and their descendants throughout the world.  He re-iterated his commitment to assist the Liberian people in their effort to re-build based upon  a conversation with Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia almost two years ago when she was newly elected. 




 1.(L-R) Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, Coordinator of the Liberia Archives Project; Ambassador M. Nathaniel Barnes; and Mr. Howard Dodson Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, chat during a break at the symposium.

2. Group photo of some of the participants in the symposium.



Co-conveners, Dr. Carl Patrick Burrowes and Dr. Elwood Dunn, who jointly crafted the “Call for Papers,” expressed their concern that this effort should produce results that will be lasting.  According to Dr. Burrowes, without inclusiveness and “buy in” by the majority of Liberians, there is the constant risk that the archives, museum and library will be destroyed once more.  Liberians of all walks of life must understand the value of the National Archives, Museum and Library and these institutions must reflect an identity chosen by the people of Liberia. 

On Saturday, April 26 presentations were made by Dr. Verlon Stone of Indiana University;  Dr. Walter Hill, Senior Archivist, The National Archives; Dr. Angel Batiste, Area Specialist, African Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress; Dr. Danielle Taana Smith, Sociology and Anthropology Department, Rochester Institute of Technology; Dorothy Davis, President Photos by Griff Davis; Doughba Caranda II, Liberia Legacy Foundation; Dr. Umaru Bah, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, Morgan State University; Wokie Weah, Vice President, National Youth Leadership Council and Lawrence Palmedo, The Cultural Preservation Fund. 

During the Closing Plenary, participants came up with key recommendations to present to the President Sirleaf based upon their deliberations.  Several urgent recommendations were communicated to President Sirleaf  immediately after the symposium pending the preparation of an in-depth report. 

In addition to the presenters, participants included Ambassador M. Nathaniel Barnes, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations; Herbert Brewer, University of Maryland and Morgan State University; Dr. Yuusuf Caruso, Microfilm Project, Africana Librarians Council, Columbia University;  Dr. Svend Holsoe,


Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Univerisity of Delaware; Peekoo Alfreda Lewis, Liberia Legacy Foundation; Faye Mame Ngor, Direction des Archives du Senegal; Philomena Bloh Sayeh, Department of History, University of Liberia; Catherine P. Sheehan, S.W.A.A. –Liberia; Dr. William Siegmann, Brooklyn Museum; Counselor Christiana Tah, Montgomery College; Bennett Yalartia, Senior Policy Advisor to the Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations; Roberta Yancy, Public Affairs and Development, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.




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