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ETSU’s Dr. Candace Forbes Bright part of team receiving NSF funding for research on minority representation at museums

JOHNSON CITY – Dr. Candace Forbes Bright of East Tennessee State University is a member of a research team that was recently awarded more than $500,000 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study “The Role of Museums in the Landscape of Minority Representation.”
Bright, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a faculty researcher with the Applied Social Research Lab at ETSU, is one of five principal investigators on the project. Her colleagues include Dr. LaToya E. Eaves of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Dr. Perry L. Carter of Texas Tech University, Dr. Amy E. Potter of Georgia Southern University, and Dr. Matthew R. Cook of Eastern Michigan University.
This three-year NSF grant, which totals $508,350, will allow the team to survey how African American history and culture are presented at African American history museums, then work with each museum’s staff to develop public engagement projects.
“In an era of increased public awareness of interracial police violence, the school-to-prisons pipeline, cycles of racially infused violence and protest seen, for example, from the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 to the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, and the Black Lives Matter movement, this research seeks to analyze how museums situated in varied geographic locations address controversial current events as part of their missions to support communities at the local, regional, and national levels,” a description of the grant reads.
“We can already see that many museums won’t survive the pandemic,” Bright says, “but we also know that it is a critically important time to better understand the role of Black museums in current events.
“Our research team, as part of the RESET Initiative, has a strong history of studying how tourist sites are equitably representing history and their role in public engagement.
Bright credits ETSU’s Research Development Committee for funding preliminary research that allowed her to collect pilot data for the NSF grant proposal. Bright joined the ETSU faculty in 2018 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she spent seven years specializing in social/cultural development with a focus on community health and race, with much of her time devoted to the work of the Gulf States Health Policy Center.
Bright recently co-authored an article that won the 2020 Zumkehr Prize for Scholarship in Public Memory. This prize is supported by the Charles E. Zumkehr Professorship in Communication Studies at Ohio University (OU). The winning article, “Following the Story: Narrative Mapping as a Mobile Method for Tracking and Interrogating Spatial Narratives,” was published in the Journal of Heritage Tourism and presents a new method researchers, museums and historic sites could employ to better tell their stories.