Rendering of the Black Baltimore Digital Database. Courtesy of the Black Baltimore Digital Database.

Multidisciplinary artist Derrick Adams has been awarded $1.25 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop the Black Baltimore Digital Database (BBDD), an archive cataloging cultural contributions by Black Baltimoreans.

The archive will be housed in Waverly, on the corner of Greenmount and Chestnut Hill Avenues. 

The cultural center will feature a gallery named after the late Baltimore photographer I. Henry Phillips, Sr., a screening room, a digital archive lab, and a café and gift shop with items from local Black-owned businesses. 

“The Black American experience has strong roots in Baltimore—I am both honored and eager to share this project with the city,” Adams said in a statement. 

“It will live as a modernized historical society, whose dedication is equally important and inclusive,” he said. 

The “collaborative counter–institutional space” will “foreground archival projects that feature rich and underrecognized contributions of Black folks in and around Baltimore, Maryland, and provide access, engagement and a sense of agency to citizens, neighbors and visitors,” according to the project’s website

The site in Waverly is located near the Last Resort Artist Retreat, a residency for Black creatives that was founded by Adams. 

Adams, who grew up in Park Heights and is now based in Brooklyn, New York, has partnered with two cultural specialists on the initiative. New York-based architect and Columbia University professor Jelisa Blumberg is the project’s creative director, and Johns Hopkins University professor Kali-Ahset Amen serves as project advisor. 

The $1.25 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, sponsored by the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, will fund the construction of the center for the next two years.