A Major Initiative

The timing for the Carroll family’s recent gift of rare Harlem Globe Trotters materials to the Black Fives Foundation Historical Archive is perfect because earlier this month, in a major initiative, we relocated our entire collection of artifacts, objects, photographs, memorabilia, ephemera, and other items from Greenwich, Connecticut into a new state-of-the-art archival storage facility outside Atlanta, Georgia.

“This new repository gives us not only more room to expand the number of artifacts in our archive but also provides us with many much-needed, fundamentally important capabilities that were previously missing,” says Johnson.

Each of the hundreds of items in our archive now will be numbered, labeled, indexed, catalogued, organized, preserved, photographed, digitized into a searchable online database, and then stored in a climate controlled environment where temperature, humidity, acidity, air quality, lighting, and other important factors are carefully monitored around the clock.

Heritage Werks Partnership

This upgrade and expansion is made possible through our new partnership with Heritage Werks, a unique archiving services company that is generously providing their resources to our not-for-profit public charity on a pro bono basis. With several locations around the country including Atlanta, they maintain the historical archives of well-known corporations, institutions, and brands as well as high profile collegiate and professional sports teams.

Still exclusively under our control, the improved Black Fives Foundation Historical Archive now will be maintained by a dedicated staff of professional archivists in compliance with National Archives and Records Administration safeguarding and digitization standards.

“There is a synergy in this partnership that really works for both of us,” says Johnson. “We can help them understand new aspects of basketball history that might relate to their current and future sports team clients, and at the same time, Heritage Werks genuinely supports our mission.”

Heritage Werks team

Black Fives Foundation executive director Claude Johnson with some of the professionals on the Heritage Werks archival services team at their facility near Atlanta, Georgia. (Heritage Werks)

Having our entire collection professionally handled and archived supports our mission to preserve this important history, now with added confidence to do more today while being able to grow in the future. In addition, organizing in accordance with industry leading standards—for example via digital tagging or through digitization and full-text searching—will make it accessible and sortable in advanced ways that allow us to see new opportunities for research and education.

“In the world of historical preservation and archival storage, this is a game-changing modernization not only for the materials themselves but also for our organization,” Johnson says. “We can now envision having a virtual online exhibition that’s constantly changing to highlight different aspects of this fascinating history.”

Benefit to Descendants

These new archival capabilities also benefit our network of the descendants of the Black Fives Era are saving historical materials at home but don’t have the expertise of knowing how or where to get them preserved.

“Now we can do it for them,” says Johnson.

On a selective basis, those with a family scrapbook, newspaper clippings, photos, or related items can send us their historical materials for proper archival preservation, conservation, and restoration, if needed. We will pack them up using professional-quality archival supplies—such as acid free protective enclosures—and return them free of charge with fully researched descriptions of their historical significance.

“These steps will help stabilize the long term deterioration of these aging items,” Johnson explains. “Just as important to families is learning more about their artifacts along with making sure that the public can enjoy them.”

Toward that last point, once this re-configuration of our archive is complete, we will begin seeking funding for the production of a turnkey, modular, freight-ready traveling exhibition of our historical archive. It would make year-round visits to museums, colleges, schools, and establishments as well as basketball tournaments, camps, and clinics in the communities where the original Black Fives Era teams once played.