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  Community Exhibitions

Today public and private collectors are being challenged to respond to the increasing interest of scholars, researchers, and the general public in locating the histories of communities and groups clearly visible in the historical demography of urban centers like Los Angeles, yet barely visible in the official historical record. The public and private archives and collections that contain these histories are essential resources for producing new knowledge about the culture of our cities. In May l999, a community exhibition series entitled, Community Archive and Collection Corridors in the Los Angeles Region opened at two community venues in conjunction with the Cultural Inheritance/L.A. publication and the symposium, Mapping LA: A Global Prototype. The community exhibition strategy was designed to place a spotlight on potential and ethical questions concerning how cultural material as preserved and displayed. The central question examined through this strategy was: "to what extent can and should cultural materials be preserved within the contexts and environments in which they were created?"

The Community Archive and Collection Corridors in the Los Angeles Region exhibition series place a spotlight on the identification and recovery of less visible archives and collections that contribute to our understanding of Los Angeles, past and present. In this series, items from community archives and collections located in two corridors in the Los Angeles region were displayed at two community-based art galleries. The corridors were (1) the Harbor and Coastal Cities Corridor encompassing coastal cities from the Ventura County line to the Orange County line, and (2) the Central City Corridor, bounded by the LA Civic Center to the north, East Los Angeles to the east, the West Los Angeles line to the west, and Watts to the south. These corridors included an interesting range of diverse communities, sectors, organizations, and institutions joined together in geographic proximity and by the content and contextual location of their archives and collections. Together these cultural resources began to reveal in new ways the historical connectedness and transformative nature of Los Angeles communities.

This exhibition series was made possible through the collaboration of twenty-six Community Partners including the lending institutions, private collections, the Getty Research Institute, and Claremont Graduate University. The exhibitions were designed to display a sampling of the content of diverse archives and collections located in the selected corridors. Using this "sampling" approach, the curatorial teams—each composed of a site curator, two guest curators who were members of the LA as Subject Advisory Forum, and student curatorial assistants from Claremont Graduate University— attempted to ensure that the exhibitions represented the "first voice" of the lending institutions and by extension the "first voice" of the communities represented in each corridor. As a result of incorporating the "first voice," the exhibitions instigated an interesting experiential dialogue between the samplings of cultural objects on display and the historical sensibilities and community perceptions of the viewer. This dialogue was enhanced by the use of various display media including works on paper, photographs, installation, film, video, and interactive computer technologies.

All materials displayed in the Community Archive and Collection Corridors in the Los Angeles Region exhibitions were from the archives and collections of the Lending Partners. Importantly, the Lending Partners were selected from the one hundred seventy-eight public and private collections listed in Cultural Inheritance/LA: A Directory of Less Visible Archives and Collections in the Los Angeles Region. This exhibition series was part of a continuing engagement between the Getty Center and local arts organizations as collaborative contributors to the cultural life of the Los Angeles region.

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The J. Paul Getty Trust
The J. Paul Getty Trust