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Los Angeles County Moves to Protect Endangered Museum Collection

Lawsuit Filed After Museum Refused to Vacate Current Location

Countywide Communications | 5/2/2019, 10:02 a.m.

Los Angeles County has commenced legal proceedings against the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum after its leaders rejected multiple offers over a decade to help them vacate the old Culver City Courthouse in favor of a more appropriate permanent home for their important collection of rare books, films, documents, photographs, artifacts and works of art related to African American history and culture.

The County leased the old courthouse to Culver City in 2006. Culver City then sublet the courthouse to the Museum, with the understanding that the arrangement was for a year only. Until that time, the collection had been housed in a private garage.

The County’s legal action comes 12 years after the Museum’s rent-free lease expired, and six months after the Museum rebuffed one final opportunity to remain in a portion of the old courthouse while completing a relocation plan. The rental value of the space is estimated at $93,000 a month.

The County has been working continually with Museum officials to understand what is needed to halt the deterioration of the collection, and to potentially identify partners that can help to properly preserve the collection for future generations.

Despite the legal action, the County and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas remain committed to protecting the collection, and endorsed an offer by California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) to receive, catalogue, and house the collection within its library.

“This collection is one of the premier assemblages of African American ephemera, documents and historic memorabilia west of the Mississippi,” CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham, Ph.D. said. “We would be honored to give it a home and are confident that the librarians at CSUDH can preserve and present the collection in such a way that protects valuable and delicate items for posterity.”

“It is my hope that the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum will accept this outstanding offer from CSUDH,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “There is a synergy and suitability to having this collection – so expertly and lovingly assembled by Dr. Mayme Clayton, a ground-breaking, African-American librarian — come under the care of one of the best library systems in California so that it is accessible for generations to come.”

“Although the Museum does have to leave its present location, I remain committed to helping the Museum move into its next phase of growth and development,” the Supervisor continued.

George O. Davis, executive director of the California African American Museum in Exposition Park, said, “The Mayme Clayton Museum should take advantage of every opportunity to preserve its collection, and to think outside the box to ensure that future generations can appreciate its historic and cultural significance.”

Once vacated, the old courthouse will undergo extensive renovations. Currently, there is a long list of deferred maintenance items that require urgent attention.