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African-American collection opens at Destrehan library

DESTREHAN — Destrehan resident and retired educator Joyce Wilderson is sharing her personal collection in an ongoing two-month exhibit at the St. Charles Parish’s East Regional library in Destrehan.

Open to the public through May 31, the exhibition showcases Wilderson’s collection of figurines, paintings, statues and whatnots, which she started collecting when she retired in 1987 from the teaching profession.

“Presenting an African-American collection: A few of my favorite things,” is the exhibit’s theme.

“I always wanted to do some type of collection after I retired,” she said. “One of the exhibits is from a friend who paints scenes on oyster shells. This was done exclusively for me. I really cherish her work.”

The display captures the universality of African-American life, Wilderson said.

There is the gray-haired grandfather playing with a grandchild, black angels, historical and political icons, ladies in their Sunday best, sports heroes – all captured in moments that are nostalgic to Wilderson.

“Many of the depictions remind me of my childhood and the people I knew growing up,” she said. “That’s the great joy in the pieces. I see my history and past, and often times when I view them, those items bring a smile to my lips, because they tell the story of who I am.”

Wilderson said once family and friends saw her burgeoning collection, they began donating pieces.

The library display is a small sampling of a larger collection where items were bought during her extensive travels, she said.

“I want the viewers of this collection to see the American black culture and its precious moments that hold so many wonderful memories for me,” Wilderson said.

Wilderson, a New Sarpy native, retired after 31 years working in the St. Charles Parish School System. She and husband, Lutcher native Ralph Wilderson, recently celebrated a 50 years of marriage.

Ralph Wilderson is a retired principal.

After a short ceremony, a private luncheon was held for the attendees.

— By Kirk Wesley White Sr.