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collage of photographs, hand written notes and memorabilia

Sharing with the Community

By Katie Jarrell

As I began processing the Bing Davis Papers three and a half months ago, I was struck by the abundance of duplicates within the collection. Initially perplexing, these duplicates soon revealed themselves as a testament to Davis' unwavering commitment to teaching and sharing the arts with all. After speaking with him at his studio, I learned that he would gather handfuls of material at each conference or event he attended so he could share it with others in his community. Each document represents his relentless pursuit to disseminate knowledge and inspire creativity.

Archival processing is the systematic arrangement, description and preservation of records or materials to ensure their accessibility, usability and long-term preservation for future use. In this case, it is putting order to the documentation of a career spanning over 60 years. Although it is a large undertaking, I feel a sense of reciprocity in giving back to Davis after years of his selfless contributions to the community. 

What I’ve learned so far (and what many people already know) is that Davis' impact extends far beyond academic realms and gallery walls. Through workshops at his studio and engagements with local schools, he tirelessly gives back to his community, nurturing the next generation of artists and thinkers. His dedication to social justice and cultural exchange permeates every aspect of his work, leaving an indelible mark on all who have crossed his path.

Despite the considerable progress made in organizing the collection, there still remains a labyrinth of correspondence, teaching materials, exhibit flyers, etc., to sort through — reflective of the breadth and depth of Davis' influence.

After speaking about his life’s journey at a Wright State University symposium in 2000, Davis was quoted in a Dayton Daily News article, saying, “I want to share not only how, but why I am an artist. As I look at my work, read between the lines, the energy and spirit that drive me to do what it is I do.” 

As I continue to navigate through the Bing Davis Papers, I realize I am not merely cataloging documents — I am preserving a legacy of artistic excellence, educational empowerment, and unwavering dedication to community upliftment. I look forward to providing access to this collection, which will offer valuable insights into Bing Davis' extraordinary life, ensuring that he continues to inspire future generations.


— Katie Jarrell is a project archivist in the University Archives and Special Collections.

For more on the Bing Davis Papers, read Rodney Veal’s University of Dayton Magazine essay “Grace of an Artful Life.” Veal is the associate producer of a documentary about Davis that will premiere at the Roger Glass Center for the Arts this fall.

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