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Hip-Hop at 50: Libraries Nationwide Plot Events to Celebrate Genre’s History and Influence

Libraries across the country are joining the celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. 

“Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip-Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives” launched late last month and will feature a mix of in-person and virtual programs, including panel discussions, author talks, and workshops digging into the genre’s history and influence on American culture. The country-wide initiative was made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and will culminate with a two-day summit, August 3 and 4, in Queens, New York. 

The Queens Public Library in New York City is spearheading the effort and will help other participating institutions create different programs (and archive them for posterity). The QPL — which has built up its own collection of artifacts documenting hip-hop’s history and legacy in the borough — launched its own hip-hop program in 2015, hiring Ralph McDaniels, co-creator of the pioneering show Video Music Box, to serve as the first hip-hop coordinator.

“Hip-hop has been used as a learning tool for many years,” McDaniels said in a statement. “We are humbled by the IMLS grant and the response we have received from our partners and collaborators, and excited that communities around the country will come together to deepen their understanding of hip hop as it turns 50.”

Since starting last month, “Collections of Culture” has featured a day-long symposium on hip-hop fashion at the Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City; a conversation about the history of hip-hop with Public Enemy’s Chuck D at the QPL’s Central Library; and a special vinyl listening party at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Other upcoming events include a “Mental Health & Hip-Hop” conversation at the Black Cultural Center at Virginia Tech on March 15; and a virtual panel, “The History of Hip Hop and Its Impact on Global Culture,” hosted by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association on April 20. 


“QPL’s hip hop program has drawn people of all ages and backgrounds to our spaces and has created a unique community connected by a love for music and knowledge,” QPL President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said in a statement. “We are thrilled to share our experience with libraries, museums and other educational institutions across the country to celebrate hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, and we are grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and to our partners for their tremendous support in making sure that hip-hop remains part of our culture for generations to come.” 

Programming for “Collections of Culture” will continue through August. Other participating libraries and organizations are located in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Seattle, Nashville, and Oak Park, Illinois near Chicago.

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