Just as Gordon Parks’ works survive him, Wichita State University’s collection of Parks’ manuscripts, photographs and personal effects will instruct and inspire long after the successful 2007-08 effort to win the trove fades in the memory.
But there’s an interesting story in how WSU, led by vice president and general counsel Ted Ayres, prevailed over other contenders for the collection such as the Library of Congress and the New York City Public Library. That story is told in “Roots and Branches: Preserving the Legacy of Gordon Parks,” a 50-minute documentary produced by WSU’s media resources department and to be premiered at 7 p.m. today in WSU’s Devlin Hall, Room 107. Admission is free.
Parks, who grew up in a segregated Fort Scott in eastern Kansas, went on to chronicle the civil rights movement and the world with his camera for Life magazine, write “The Learning Tree” and many more books, direct “Shaft,” co-found Essence magazine, and even compose music and choreograph ballet. The boundless creativity and imagination represented within WSU’s collection have so much to offer students, scholars and others. Having the collection of this 1988 National Medal of Arts award winner in Wichita is a wonderful honor and responsibility, offering many opportunities in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2012 and far beyond.
Here’s hoping that the documentary’s showing, which is the third presentation of the Gordon Parks Lecture Series, will deepen the community’s appreciation for this treasure in its midst.