Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections is temporarily housing a portion of the Great Plains Black History Museum’s (GPBHM) archival collection as a result of an ongoing community partnership. The GPBHM’s stated mission is “…to preserve, educate, and exhibit the contributions and achievements of African Americans with an emphasis on the Great Plains region, as well as provide a space to learn, explore, reflect and remember our history” ( It was founded in 1975 and has since served as a rich resource for Black history in the Omaha community. UNO has a history of collaborating with the museum for co-sponsored panel discussions, history summer camps, and guidance on collection care. Building upon these joint efforts naturally led to piloting a partnership that involved the temporary transfer of archival collections to UNO for arrangement, description, and select digitization. At the time of transfer, the collection allowed no public access due to space limitations. As community members, UNO archivists wanted to help make these resources available to the wider community. UNO staff could reasonably offer their professional resources to contribute towards increased access to the GPBHM archival collection. The potential multiple pitfalls of community partnerships do require in-depth consideration though, some the authors were prepared for and others less so.

The ethical considerations of UNO staff forming a partnership that transferred records temporarily out of the community in which they were created were significant. While UNO archivists bring professional skills to the project, it was critical that they not approach it from a position of all-knowing power, but with a service mindset while incorporating significant input from the museum leadership. Communication between UNO and the GPBHM was an important piece in establishing the partnership. The MOU between both parties indicates exactly how UNO will assist the GPBHM in their efforts to increase access, while ultimately ensuring that the resources be as open as possible to the community. The authors learned that communication can be difficult when there is a single point of contact, made more difficult by a volunteer board populated by people who work full-time elsewhere. While the authors were prepared for these potential pitfalls, they were less so ready for the juggling act of balancing resources. Quite unexpectedly, the platform where digital collections were to be made accessible became a nonviable option only two years into the partnership. This coincided with uncertainties surrounding a permanent GPBHM location to house and provide access to the collection, which may not be settled for years. In addition, concerns over the annual library budget have contributed to discussions surrounding priorities in processing and digitization.

Despite these uncertainties, one of UNO’s strategic priorities is community engagement. The authors are fortunate to have the support of both their unit Director and library Dean to pursue the work. The authors will continue to support increased access to the GPBHM archival collection by pursuing grants that will assist with conservation, further processing, and ongoing digitization. The ongoing work will build off the selection of materials originally chosen for its subject matter and relevance to UNO’s Department of Black Studies. This paper will discuss building relationships with community partners, the ethics of partnerships that include relocating and hosting collections, complications with balancing resources, and handling the unknown. The authors will describe and reflect on UNO’s partnership with the GBPHM with the goal of serving as one example of how positive community partnerships can benefit all parties involved.


This is the authors' Conference Proceedings for the Brick and Click Library Conference that took place November 2023. For the complete proceeding visit