Skip to content

Mayme Clayton Library moves to West Los Angeles College

The Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, formerly at 4130 Overland Ave. in Culver City, has moved the bulk of its collection of rare African-American films, photographs, artwork and artifacts to West Los Angeles College.

The items will be temporarily stored there until the popular library/museum finds a new home.

Library officials had been offered space to house its goods at Cal State Dominguez Hills, but because the university wanted to lay claim to the items, this idea was scrapped. Instead, West LA College will allow for occasional public viewing of the collection “as long as space is available and is not being used by the college,” said Steven Fisher, director of the Clayton Library/Museum.

If the library had moved to Cal State Dominguez Hills, officials there would have likely asked that all collections be “donated’ to the campus as is standard archival practice. In turn, the library would have received a “Deed of Gift” certification. It seems that a lack of ownership for the university would pose “barriers to adequate preservation of materials” which Fisher said would hinder the ability of the Southeast LA campus to meet grant proposal guidelines.

“West Los Angeles College is acutely aware of the importance of the Clayton collection, and we’re glad that we can be good neighbors and provide the necessary space to store the museum’s artifacts and archival materials while a search is conducted for a permanent location,” said West LA College President James M. Limbaugh.

The Clayton library had operated in Culver City for the past 13 years where it housed more than two million artifacts of African-American history-some dated before the Civil War—just prior to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors move to evict last fall.

There’s still a chance that the library can return to its original location. An official at the Wende Museum of the Cold War, also in Culver City, is seeking approval from the city for a fully-funded project to develop the vacant AmVets (American Veterans) site next door to the Wende and use that as a creative space for the Clayton collection to allow for a more permanent public display.

The California African-American Museum in Exposition Park, the Getty Museum in Westwood, UCLA, USC and Cal State Los Angeles have each expressed interest in collaborating with the Clayton library to display its collection.

The late Mayme Clayton was a librarian, collector and historian who for 40 years amassed one of the nation’s most informative installations of African-American memorabilia.