From a NYPL Statement:
Following an exhaustive national search, The New York Public Library has named Joy Bivins director of the internationally-renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Her tenure begins on June 21, 2021.
Bivins, Associate Director of Collections and Research Services at the Schomburg Center since June 2020, brings to the position nearly two decades of expert leadership, extensive curatorial knowledge, and a unique ability to help audiences make sense of history—something certainly needed now.
“After a year of unprecedented isolation, during which we saw the centrality of the Black Lives Matter movement, we need to come together again and make sense of what we have lived through,” said Bivins. “The Schomburg Center, with its robust collections and rich legacy, has a key role to play in this moment, bringing people together, facilitating conversations, and continuing to ensure that the perspectives and histories of the Black community and members of the African Diaspora are preserved and understood. In my career, I have worked to help others make sense of history, to make connections between the past and the present, and to help create a true understanding of where we are now and where we are going. I am extremely humbled and thankful for the opportunity to take those expertise and lead the incredible, expert team at the Schomburg Center through this critical moment. I look forward to every minute.”
Bivins—the first woman to lead the Schomburg Center since Jean Blackwell Hutson’s tenure ended in 1980—said she will be focused on making those connections, as well as increasing the visibility of the Center, reaching new patrons, and making the Center’s collections more accessible, both on-site and digitally. The Schomburg holds over 11 million items, including the recent major acquisitions of the collections of Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Sonny Rollins, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Ann Petry, and Malcolm X.
Before joining the Schomburg Center—where as associate director of collections and research services she led the five public service divisions of the Schomburg Center and served as chief curator leading collections processing, acquisitions, and curatorial processes—Bivins served as the chief curator of the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. She provided content and design oversight for its inaugural exhibitions. Prior to the IAAM, she was the director of Curatorial Affairs at the Chicago History Museum, where she oversaw and managed its team of curators and historians. Bivins, a “proud native of Chicago’s south side,” began her career as exhibition developer of Chicago History Museum’s Teen Chicago project.
Bivins received her master’s degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University and received her bachelor’s degree in history and Afroamerican and African Studies from the University of Michigan.
It was during her time at Cornell that she first stepped inside the Schomburg Center—as a student doing research for her thesis in the summer of 2001.
“It’s amazing to think that 20 years after I first visited the Schomburg and was so inspired by its collections and mission that I would get the opportunity to be director,” Bivins said. “It’s such an honor, especially to follow in the footsteps of Jean Blackwell Hutson and the other strong women who shaped and led the Schomburg, against all odds. I am so grateful for the opportunity.”