About the BMRC

2016 Archie Motley Archival Intern, Sabine Nau, at Chicago Public Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

The Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) is a Chicago-based membership association of libraries, universities, museums, community/arts organizations, and other archival institutions. The BMRC’s mission is to connect all who seek to document, share, understand and preserve Black experiences. It is the vision of BMRC to be essential to promoting discovery, preservation, and use of Black historical collections.

Through consortial programs, the BMRC aids in expanding broad access to its members’ holdings of materials that document African American and African diasporic culture, history, and politics, with a specific focus on materials relating to Chicago. The BMRC is located at the University of Chicago, which serves as the Black Metropolis Research Consortium’s host institution and fiscal agent.

To learn more about the BMRC's history, view our 15th Anniversary Web Exhibit!


The BMRC was initiated in the spring of 2006 at a meeting of chief executives from fifteen Chicago area institutions. Dr. Danielle Allen, then serving as Dean of the Humanities at the University of Chicago, convened the meeting to discuss forms of collaboration that might support African American studies in the Chicago area. After a year of consortium construction and governance development, the BMRC was launched on July 1, 2006, with the appointment of its first steering committee and the election of its first board of directors.

Since its founding in 2006, the BMRC has complete two major archival management projects making previously “hidden” collections available for researchers, scholars, and artists. The Consortium believes that web-based research tools provide an excellent opportunity for broadening access to unique primary source materials held in its members’ collections.


Host Institution

The BMRC is hosted by the University of Chicago. Founded in 1890 and located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL, the University of Chicago serves as one of the world’s most preeminent academic and research institutions. Across the University’s Chicago and international campuses, its undergraduate program and six professional schools for graduate research, and affiliations with numerous research laboratories, the University of Chicago has established itself as an institution driving academic study and research forward. It is for these reasons that the University makes an ideal host of the BMRC, providing us with the ability to pursue our mission of promoting and making readily accessible, the history of the African Diaspora and Chicago.




  • New Staff
    June: Tanya Calvin is hired as the BMRC's Community Engagement Archivist to support the "Documenting Black Chicago" grant
    May: Laurie Lee Moses is hired as the BMRC's Portal Archivist to support the "Documenting Black Chicago" grant. Allison Sutton is hired as the BMRC's Program Manager/Archivist.


  • New Executive Director
    September: Marcia Walker-McWilliams is hired as the newest Executive Director of the BMRC.
  • April: The BMRC is awarded a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of "Documenting Black Chicago Through Technology, Sustainability and Outreach"


  • BMRC_Strategic-Plan-2018.pdf
    The BMRC outlines is strategic plan for 2018-2021 focusing on five key areas of growth and engagement: Education, Collections, Collection Management, Membership and Sustainability.
  • New location
    The BMRC staff offices move from 5720 S. Woodlawn into the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library.
  • Fellows Reunion
    October: The BMRC convened a reunion of fellows from the Summer Short-term Fellowship Program, scholars of Black Chicago, and archivists from BMRC member institutions at the 103rd National Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in Indianapolis.


  • New Executive Director
    September: Andrea Jackson is hired as the Executive Director of the BMRC.


  • Archie Motley Archival Internship Program
    February: The BMRC launches the new Archie Motley Archival Internship Program to develop and create meaningful and educational internship opportunities for upper-undergraduate students, graduate students, and recent graduates in the field of cultural heritage management.


  • 10th Anniversary Celebration
    October 15: The BMRC celebrates its 10th anniversary at the Columbia College Chicago Library.
  • CAA Open Archives Event
    October 8-10: BMRC Member Organizations participate in the Chicago Area Archivists' Open Archives event and open their doors and vaults to the general public.
  • POWRR Workshop & New Staff
    April: Anita Mechler joins the BMRC as the Project Manager / Archivist. The BMRC also hosts a "Preserving Digital Objects with Restricted Resources" (POWRR) workshop at Roosevelt University.


  • New Executive Director
    August: Camille Ann Brewer is hired as the Executive Director of the BMRC.
  • BMRC Fellowship Program
    July 1-August 27: The fifth cohort of the Summer Short-Term Fellows conducts research at BMRC repositories and gives final presentations.


  • CLIR Grant Extended
    December 31: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation via their Council on Library and Information Resources extends the grant for the Color Curtain Processing Project.
  • Distinguished Service Award
    August 11-17: The BMRC is given the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of American Archivists at the Annual Conference in New Orleans for "important contributions to archival theory and practice, [fostering] collaborative relationships between member institutions, and [showing] ingenuity in its service to the community."


  • New Executive Director
    November: Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty, Interim Executive Director of the BMRC since August 2011, becomes Executive Director.
  • BMRC Board & Fellows
    June 13: The BMRC hosts its Annual Meeting at the Gleacher Center from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., during which the Summer Short-Term Fellows of 2012 are introduced.


  • Survey Initiative Project Completion
    December 31: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Survey Initiative Project, documenting archival collections from "Second Space" clients and BMRC member archival repositories, is completed.
  • Color Curtain Processing Project
    November 1 – May 1, 2012: The Color Curtain Processing Project, also known as "Unveiling the Black Metropolis," is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation via their Council on Library and Information Resources.
  • "Full Exposure" Conference
    October 24: The BMRC hosts a daylong conference to celebrate nearing the end of the Survey Project titled "Full Exposure: Archives and Community Collaboration." A reception is also held at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art with keynote speaker Dr. Tukufu Zuberi.
  • "MPLP" Workshop
    May: The BMRC hosts a "More Product Less Process" Workshop, led by Mark A. Green from the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


  • Color Curtain Processing Project
    December 16: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, via their Council on Library and Information Resources, awards the BMRC a grant for the Color Curtain Processing Project.
  • Copyright Workshop
    November 1: The BMRC hosts "A Gathering Place for the Second Space" workshop series with "Copyright and African American Collections," instructed by Peter B. Hirtle, Intellectual Property Officer at Cornell University Library.
  • Archival Training Workshop
    July 20: The BMRC holds an archival training workshop called "Second Space: A Mellon-funded Survey Project," held for project participants and members of the community at the DuSable Museum of African American History.


  • Additional Survey Funding
    December: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation further awards the BMRC for continuation of the Survey Initiative Project.
  • Archie Motley Internship Fair
    October 1: The Second Annual Archie Motley Internship Fair is scheduled at Loyola University Chicago's Information Commons from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • BMRC Survey Initiative
    June: The BMRC Survey Initiative team begins diligently collecting and maintaining information on all African American related archival collections from "Second Space" clients as well as BMRC institutional member repositories.
  • Summer Short-term Fellowship Program
    The BMRC welcomes the first cohort of Summer Short-term Fellows.
  • Survey Planning Grant
    May: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards the BMRC with a grant to support the Survey Initiative. Support staff is hired: Bergis Jules as the Survey Project Archivist and Lisa Callahan as the Lead Surveyor / Archivist.
  • BMRC Symposium
    January 30:
    The BMRC co-sponsors a daylong symposium at the University of Chicago exhibit "Integrating the Life of the Mind."


  • Archie Motley Internship Fair
    October 7: The BMRC co-sponsors the First Annual Archie Motley Archives and Manuscripts Internship Fair with Dominican University, held at the Chicago History Museum.
  • A New Home for BMRC
    August 18: The BMRC moves into the office space at 5720 S. Woodlawn, provided by the Office of the Provost at the University of Chicago.
  • BMRC Fellowship Program
    June 16 & 17: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards the BMRC with a grant to launch the Summer Short-Term Fellowship Program, modeled after the Massachusetts Historical Society's New England Regional Fellowship Consortium.
  • BMRC Survey Initiative
    January: The BMRC Access Committee of the Board creates a Survey Working Group to propose a survey initiative project centered in developing a framework for helping member institutions based on the Philadelphia Area Special Collections Consortium (PACSCL). This project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is proposed to run from June 2008 – December 2010.


  • BMRC Internship Program
    December 10: THE BMRC Board meets, discusses, and drafts an internship program.
  • Chicago Collections Consortium
    October 19: The BMRC Board meets with the newly organized Chicago Collections Consortium to discuss possible collaborations.
  • Preliminary Assessment
    Summer: The Consortium Archivist, Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty conducts a survey of BMRC member institutions to assess their collections and needs.
  • "Black Jewel of the Midwest"
    January 21 – December 31: A photographic exhibition called "Black Jewel of the Midwest" shows at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature as well as at the Hall Library Branch of the Chicago Public Library.


  • Recognition of the BMRC
    September 7: The African American Legacy Initiative of the Chicago Community Trust gives the BMRC recognition for its work.
  • A New BMRC Board
    June & July 1: Elections are held in June for the Interim Board of the BMRC, chaired by founder Danielle Allen. The Board is seated on July 1 and first proposals for funding are sent out during this time to the National Endowment of the Humanities and to the Chicago Community Trust.
  • Executive Director named
    June: Vera Davis is hired as the BMRC's first Executive Director.
  • The Birth of the BMRC
    March 27: Danielle Allen, the Dean of the Humanities Division of the University of Chicago, leads a meeting of 40 executive officers, from presidents to executive directors, from 15 cultural and educational institutions to agree to supporting a full-fledged Chicago-wide Consortium.


  • Black Metropolis Summit
    April 15: About 60 community leaders gather to discuss whether pursuing a National Heritage Area status might be a tool for ensuring that the Black Metropolis endures, both as a historic neighborhood and as a legacy of empowerment. The meeting is called "Black Metropolis Summit: Connecting the Dots."
  • Southside Online Civic Knowledge Library
    February – April: A project titled "Southside Online Civic Knowledge Library," inspired by the Jazz Archives, is later referred to as the Black Metropolis Research Consortium.


  • Civic Knowledge Project
    July: The earliest concept of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) comes out of a planning meeting for the Civic Knowledge Project, a branch of the Humanities Division of the University of Chicago. Danielle Allen, founder of the BMRC, was the dean of the Humanities Division.