Camille Ann Brewer named executive director for Black Metropolis Research Consortium

Camille Ann Brewer has been named executive director of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, a Chicago-based association of libraries, universities and other archival institutions that document African American and African diasporic culture, history and politics, with a specific focus on materials relating to Chicago.


“Our mission is to make accessible the holdings of our 11 BMRC member institutions to those who wish to conduct primary source research,” said Brewer. As the new executive director, Brewer brings 20 years of professional experience in the field of cultural heritage management. Her management expertise comes from experience in a range of areas, including museum and private fine art collections, artists’ papers and libraries. 

For 15 years, Brewer operated her own business, CAB Fine Art, providing fine art advising and collection management services for individual, nonprofit and corporate clients. She also has worked on projects with the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Research for Arts and Culture at the National Center for Creative Aging, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Detroit Children’s Museum and the estate of Max Roach.

Brewer earned a BFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Valdosta State University and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Before she began her appointment as executive director of the BMRC, Brewer was an adjunct professor at Chicago State University, teaching weaving in the art department.

The University of Chicago has been the consortium’s host institution since 2006, when Danielle Allen, former professor of classics, political science, social thought and dean of Humanities, founded the BMRC. The Office of the Provost serves a fiduciary role for the organization, as it secures funding to assist its member institutions in making collections accessible.

The consortium has received generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which on Friday, March 13 announced renewed funding for its summer fellowship program. 

Sian Beilock, vice provost for academic initiatives and professor of psychology, and Jacqueline Stewart, professor of cinema and media studies and the BMRC’s faculty adviser, support the organization’s goals and initiatives. Stewart serves as principal investigator on grant proposals. Susan Boone, director of administration and operations in the Office of the Provost, is a BMRC board member and treasurer.

“Chicago’s South Side plays an important role in African American history and culture,” said Provost Eric D. Isaacs. “The University of Chicago is proud to serve as the host to the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. We are delighted that Camille is leading this effort.”

Leroy E. Kennedy, BMRC board president, welcomes new leadership for the BMRC. “We are excited about Camille’s plans for engaging the community along with our member institutions and taking the BMRC to next level of public programming.”

As Brewer forges relationships with the consortium’s member institutions, she also is focusing the BMRC’s energies on its successful summer fellowship program. Since the program’s inception, 55 scholars have taken advantage of the opportunity to work with the consortium members’ repositories.

The BMRC will welcome 15 new fellows this summer based on its 2015 thematic cohorts. The Great Migration will be the subject of the first cohort. This year is the centennial of the beginning of the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans migrated from the rural South to cities in the North, Midwest and West. “Without the Great Migration, the Black Metropolis, as we know and understand it, would not exist,” said Brewer. “Therefore, we plan to begin this next cycle of fellowships investigating this important and pivotal aspect of Chicago’s history,” she added.

The second theme for 2015 is journalism, publishing and writing. This year is the 75th anniversary of Ebony magazine, the 110th anniversary of The Chicago Defender and the 65th anniversary of Gwendolyn Brooks receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The thematic cohorts for the summer fellowships in 2016 will focus on politics and on the medical arts. In 2017, the first cohort will explore the impact of Chicago gospel music on American pop, jazz and other musical genres, with the second cohort focusing on architecture, design and urban planning.