Explore Black History at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Kai Frazier
August 11, 2022

Kai XR is thrilled to announce the arrival of our upcoming virtual field trip that takes students on a tour through the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture 

Located in the historic Harlem neighborhood, the Center is one of three research libraries in the New York Public Library system. Together, these research facilities and the nearly 100 public libraries throughout the city provide a wealth of exciting educational opportunities for students and educators alike—if they’re able to access them, that is.

That’s why we couldn’t be more excited to open up the doors of this historic institution and bring some of the treasures in its collection of over 11 million artifacts that tell the story of Black excellence directly to you through our latest virtual experience.

Check out a preview of our latest experiential adventure in the behind-the-scenes video below.

A Brief History of the Schomburg Center

Image of a window-covered building taken from across the street.. Sign above the glass doors reads "Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture." On the bottom left of frame, a man in lavender walks beside the building. It's a sunny day.  A tree is reflected in the building's many windows.

Once the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library, the building that now houses the Schomburg Center has a significant place in Black history. In its heyday, the library was a meeting ground where historic figures that played a pivotal role in the Harlem Renaissance would meet to read, write, create art, and exchange ideas that would change the course of Black History.

First opened in 1905, the 135th Street branch quickly established itself as a central landmark in Black history, with the first African American librarian hired by the New York Public Library joining when library staff was integrated in 1920. It would host the first exhibit of African American art in Harlem the next year, which would go on to become an annual event.

Who Was Arturo Schomburg?

Black and white photograph of Arturo Schomburg sitting on an ornate chair. He has sharply parted, short curly hair and a thick mustache. He wears a suit and bowtie. He rests one hand on the armrest and the other on his knee. Behind the photo is a black and white image of old book spines lined up on a shelf.

Over the years, various scholars and other prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance would play a role in shaping the legacy of what would become known as the Schomburg Center, but perhaps no one would play such a prominent role as the Center’s namesake, Arturo Schomburg.

Arturo Schomburg was a scholar, writer, historian, and avid collector of African American and Afro-Latin American literature, art, and texts. Born in Puerto Rico of African and German descent, Schomburg felt passionately that Black history, culture, and intellect all not only existed at a time when many would not accept these truths, but that they should all be celebrated and remembered.

Schomburg’s collection of roughly 5,000 artifacts, which he donated to the library in 1926, would become the basis of the Collection’s now-massive treasure trove. It’s only fitting that the library would go on to be renamed the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in his honor.

Exploring the Treasures Inside—and the Legacy Beneath our Feet

Center of frame, Kai stands on set in front of a 360 degree camera. She is wearing a blue dress. A man holds a clapper board in front of her. Another man—dressed in a blazer and jeans—stands to the side. Behind the camera, a woman holds up lines on a white poster.

In our latest virtual field trip, Kai XR takes students through the doors of the Schomburg Center to take a look at some of the facility’s most notable artifacts and historical features—in the Metaverse.

  • Langston Hughes’ resting place. African American poet, author, and playwright—and another Harlem Renaissance luminary Langston Hughes’ ashes are buried beneath the Schomburg Center’s cosmogram in their Langston Hughes Atrium.  One of the first stops on our tour, the cosmogram is inspired by Hughes’ seminal poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” which students can hear as they explore the space virtually.
Birds eye view of set. Kai and Schomburg Center representative stand on  circular emblem (the cosmogram) on the ground. The cosmogram is bronze-colored. Blue rivers run through it and then off across the white tiled floor. Crew members and equipment are visible around the emblem.

  • Rare books and unpublished works. Also included on the tour is a peek into the Schomburg Center’s Rare Books Reading Room, which includes an unpublished chapter that never made it into The Autobiography of Malcolm X as well as a manuscript of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Kai and Schomburg Center rep sit across from each other at a table in the Rare Books Reading Room. They smile at the 360 degree camera.

  • Current exhibits. We also get a special look at one of the current exhibits featured at the Center—an exhibition called Boundless: 10 Years of Seeding Black Comic Futures. The exhibit takes a look back at the past 10 years of the Annual Black Comic Book Festival that the Center has held.
Kai and Schmburg Center rep stand in the "Boundless: 10 Years of Seeding Black Comic Futures" exhibit. Info panels are pale blue with white text. A woman holds lines up on a poster in front of them.

 Learn more about the Schomburg Center and its role in the New York Public Library system—as well as in Black history and culture—by watching the video below.

Take Learning Further with Kai XR

We are so excited to add our trip to the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to our library of more than 100 virtual reality field trips.

Child holds a tablet and raises her hand high. She is outlined in yellow. In the background is a collage of Kai XR field trips and prominent Black figures, including Ruby Bridges, Barack Obama, and Malcom X.

Through our Voyage Package, Kai XR offers educators a vast array of one-of-a-kind, inclusive virtual trips that help students explore the world around them while learning critical 21st century skills.

Plus, our Voyage Package helps educators bring the Metaverse to their institutions safely and securely through curriculum integration, professional development, and 24/7 customer support. Learn more about how Kai XR can help you open up a world of new possibilities and opportunities for your students.

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There’s so much for you and your students to explore. All you need to do is start. Try out Kai XR on your smart device, tablet, VR headset, or laptop. We’ll be your guide!

In memory of my sunshine, Ky(ra) G. Frazier. Love you to the moon and back.