IWU Professor Wins Award for Museum Exhibit
October 4, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - Pamela Muirhead, associate professor of English at Illinois Wesleyan
University, is a guest curator for "Presence, Pride & Passion, A History of African
Americans in McLean County," on display at the McLean County Museum of History, 200
N. Main St., in Bloomington. The exhibit, which opened on Feb. 4, 2006 and continues
through May 25, 2008, received a Superior Achievement award from the Illinois Association
The Superior Achievement award recognizes "groundbreaking" projects, which can serve
as models for the profession and attract a wider audience than is normally reached
by an institution. It is non-competitive, but includes evaluations by professionals
in the fields represented by the subject matter.
Developed by the McLean County Historical Society in partnership with the Bloomington-Normal
Black History Project and sponsored by The Illinois Humanities Council the Mitsubishi
Motors of North America, "Presence, Pride & Passion" celebrates the contributions
the black community has made to McLean County since its establishment in the 1840s.
In a letter to the museum, Illinois Association of Museums coordinator Mary Turner
praises the exhibit's "excellent" community involvement and the "strong voice" individual
oral histories provide.
As guest curators, Muirhead and her husband Jack (IWU class of '62) worked closely
with Susan Hartzold, exhibit designer and curator for the museum, in selecting the
pieces to be presented. The Muirheads have been historians for the Bloomington-Normal
Black History Project for over two decades and have provided much of the research
for the exhibit, which they are currently using to write a book.
Pamela Muirhead, who earned a bachelor of arts degree from IWU in 1968, a master of
arts degree from Northwestern University in 1972, and a doctorate from the University
of Illinois in 1981, joined the Illinois Wesleyan faculty in 1972. She was honored
as the IWU Century Club Honoree in 1988-1999 and served as acting dean of faculty
"Presence, Pride & Passion" is a collection of documents, photographs, letters, historical
text, oral histories and objects such as household items, family heirlooms, and military
medals. Also included are paintings and archaeological artifacts from Wayman African
Methodist Episcopal Church. Wayman AME Church has remained in operation since its
founding in 1831, making it the oldest African American church in the Bloomington-Normal
Community celebrations, business ventures and cultural changes, such as clothing and
hair styles, are also represented in the exhibit. "One photograph includes a group
of IWU students, including a former member of the Illinois Wesleyan Board of Trustees,
wearing the 'afro' hairstyle," says Muirhead. All of the exhibit materials were collected
from community members by the museum and donated to the Black History Project.
For additional information, visit the McLean County Museum of History's Web site at
www.mchistory.org, or call the museum at (309) 827-0428.
Contact: Meg Dubuque, (309) 556-3181