Martin Luther King documents on digital display at library

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:45 am

A traveling exhibit featuring digital images of original documents from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, sermons and letters stopped by the Milwaukee Public Library this week. The King Center Imaging Project exhibition, which includes nearly 200,000 pieces of Dr. King’s works like his “I Have a Dream Speech” and his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, gave Milwaukeeans what Mayor Tom Barrett described as a front row seat to history.

“I am ecstatic that (the exhibit is) here in Milwaukee,” Barrett said after an opening celebration and ribbon cutting at the library Monday. “I think it is a very significant part of our history as a nation, and to have the exhibit here is really an honor for this city.”

“I think for people of all ages it provides an opportunity to have a glimpse of history simply by looking at the correspondence, the speeches, the sermons, the letters that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote over the course of his lifetime,” Barrett said. “It’s a history book that’s really been presented to us, and a lot of it continues to be relevant today.”

The imaging project, which also includes digitized documents from other Civil Rights leaders like Andrew Young and Reverend Jesse Jackson, was made possible by JPMorgan Chase through its Technology for Social Good program. JPMorgan Chase assisted with financial resources to support the exhibit and assembled a team of more than 300 college students, scholars, JPMorgan Chase staff members and experts in imaging and archiving of historical documents to digitize the works. The King Center, home to more than one million King documents in Atlanta, provided the original works.

The imaging project is as interactive as it is educational, inviting visitors to record their dreams on a “My Dream Is” card and hang them on the illuminated Dream Wall at the exhibit. Each dream is then digitized and preserved online.

The Milwaukee Public Library was the first library to host the exhibit, which debuted at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 2011. It has since made its way to sites such as the 56th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Ala.; Madison Square Garden in New York City; and the Annual Black Solidarity Conference at Yale University. The exhibit’s next stop is the Charles Wright Museum in Detroit.

To Jim Popp, president of Chase in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the exhibit is meaningful no matter where it’s on display.

“I think what it means to Milwaukee is the same as what it means to every other city in the country,” Popp said. “The things that you’ll see in this exhibit kind of transcend whether it’s Milwaukee or Chicago or Atlanta or LA or Dallas – it doesn’t matter. As Americans, the works of Dr. King were inspirational and are a part of the fabric of what this country is, and we certainly love the opportunity to play a small part in bringing those to the general public and making them more available.”
The digital exhibit will be on display at the library, 814 W. Wisconsin Avenue, until 6 p.m. today. It is free and open to the public. For more information, visit or www.thekingcenter.og.

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