Delaware Public Media

Exhibit using 1968 photographs back up at Delaware Art Museum amid protests

Jul 20, 2020

The Delaware Art Museum is open to visitors again, with an exhibit that resonates with the recent Black Lives Matter protests.


The Delaware Art Museum commissioned a work in 2018 by conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas that combined historic News Journal photographs of the 1968 occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard with a “Black Survival Guide” distributed at the time by a local organization. 

Now the full exhibit, called Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot, is back on display at the museum. 

“The strength of Hank Willis Thomas’ work is to really make these historic connections and unfortunately continue to shed light on systemic injustices,” said contemporary art curator at the Delaware Art Museum Margaret Winslow. 

Winslow says the decision to hang the full series of 13 retroreflective screen prints again was made after community members referenced the work on social media while discussing how those in power might respond to the protests against police brutality that started this spring. 

“They were pointing to the very unfortunate connections between what we were seeing in regards to a response to a Black Lives Matter movement,” she said, “looking at uprisings, the power that was behind them, and pointing to a question of how would the National Guard respond—how would politicians respond.”

Parts of the series have been displayed along with other pieces of the museum’s permanent collection since the initial exhibit ended in Sept. 2018, Winslow says. 

The museum reopened to its members on July 1 and to the general public last week. Face masks are required and a limited number of people can be in each gallery at the same time. 

Admission is free through Aug. 1. Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot is on display through Sept. 27.

 

The museum worked with organizations throughout the city in 2018 to engage Wilmington residents who lived through the occupation and those who were just learning about it to reflect on the work. 

This time around, the museum is encouraging the public to get involved with national, regional and local organizations, such as the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow, to work toward racial justice. The Black Survival Guide exhibition page on the museum’s website links visitors to advocacy, education and voter registration resources 

“We want to provide historical information and then of course the resources for anyone to get involved today,” said Winslow.