The Detroit Sound Conservancy has set up an exhibit at the Detroit Public Library to honor the Graystone International Jazz Museum!
I hadn’t heard of the GIJM or any of the history behind the place before helping out with the display. The museum was founded in 1974 by James Jenkins to fulfill an ongoing aspiration: to house a repository for Detroit’s jazz heritage. For most of its existence, the GIJM was one of the only jazz museums in America, and now it’s gone. As I was setting up and rearranging the large black and white photographs in the display-case, I was surprised by the number of patrons who stopped on their way in or out of the library to comment and reminisce on their Graystone experiences. The memories associated with the old ballroom are tied to so many individuals in the community and its fond impression still lingers.
Click on image to see full scrapbook via Flickr.
In early 2015, the Detroit Sound Conservancy secured ownership of the extant GIJM materials. The DSC is currently raising funds to secure the collection, inventory its contents, and plan a sustainable solution for the Graystone legacy.
Personally, it’s been a privilege learning more about this legacy and helping the DSC with the exhibit. I am a graduate student at Wayne State University pursuing a master’s in Library and Information Science with a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration. Assisting with the exhibit and also spending time in WSU’s student lab digitizing and cataloging a part of the DSC’s photo collection has been a challenging and fun experience. While digitizing a scrapbook for the DSC website, I was able to read through the newspaper clippings featuring the movers and shakers of American Jazz culture, much of which, I was pleased to learn, centered in Detroit. I didn’t know how much of Detroit’s music is attributed to places like the Graystone Ballroom, and later the Graystone International Jazz Museum. Now that the museum is closed down, I’m glad to find the DSC is working to preserve and honor its memory.
The DSC’s mission to increase awareness of and support to Detroit’s musical heritage is an ongoing adventure. I am glad I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to it.
Danae Dracht is a graduate student at Wayne State University.