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Meet Tellie Simpson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tellie Simpson. 

Hi Tellie, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
My love of History and collecting stems from when I was a little girl, around six or seven. I found a coin on the ground while I was playing, and I had so many questions. It didn’t look like any of the coins I’ve ever seen before. There was no Lincoln or George Washington. It wasn’t silver, nor was it copper. The coin had a lot of intricate designs with a square center, and I remember it being extremely dirty. It seemed like it had been through a lot, and I needed to know about its journey. From that moment, I started collecting coins and different currencies. As I got older and learned what research, the library, and the Internet were, my mind craved more. Years later, I discovered that the coin is actually a replica of a 19th-century Chinese currency. The coin doesn’t have any financial value. But its sentimental value is priceless. I also can’t talk about how I became known as the family historian without mentioning my grandfather. My grandfather was a Vietnam vet who was also a collector. So, collecting is in my blood. 

I didn’t realize that History and collecting could be a profession until I went on a field trip to a museum in elementary school. I remember being mesmerized by the art, the statues, and just being surrounded by so much old stuff. From that day, I knew that working with History and museums was something that I wanted to do with my life. Fast-forwarding to college, I majored in History at Morgan State University and graduated with my B.A. During that time, I volunteered and interned at museums and asked tons of questions to figure out how to get into the museum world. After creating “my master plan” to get into the museum field, I went back to school to pursue my Master of Arts In Museum Studies from my alma mater. 

I am currently working in the museum collections department, which means I am surrounded by history and artifacts all day. 

I’ve been a part of the museum field for about six years now, and sadly it lacks diversity and inclusion. So, I found myself searching for a creative and relatable safe place for my love of Black history. But I grew tired of searching, so I created my own space, and that’s how A Girl In A Museum World, LLC was founded. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As I mentioned, the museum world lacks diversity, so the road to breaking through the field has not been smooth. I’ve experienced a lot of pushbacks. The BIPOC community is often not welcomed at the table because our story sheds light on the ugly part of History that museums try to hide or romanticize. As a Black woman working in this field, I have a responsibility to make it clear that we deserve a seat at the table because our narratives are a part of History. I also like to reinforce that there is more to our story than our moments of oppression. Unfortunately, I was not prepared to fight and defend my community as much as I do while working in this field. It took me some time to my voice and find my path to fighting this necessary fight. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
When I’m not working behind the scenes at the Museum, you can find my head in a book or on my laptop searching for the next Black historical figure to highlight on my blog. Museums and the history field, in general, can often focus on one section of Black History, which is slavery. So, the mission of my blog is to expose readers to Black History beyond Slavery. I’m pretty biased, so I believe History is the best subject ever, so I can visit a web page that’s full of rich historical text and be happy if the information is historically accurate. But I know that every reader who visits my page does not have that same love or passion for the subject. To make things interesting, I reenact or cosplay the historical figure or the era that I’m featuring that day. I have a lot of fun doing it, and it gets folks excited and more interested in the topic. Also, I get asked many questions when dressed in historical clothing in public which leads to new readers. 

My blog educates others, but it has also helped expose aspects within myself, such as authorship. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I was nervous and fearful about taking that step. But walking out of the house in 19th-century clothing helped eliminate a lot of fear. So, I now have the courage to do that very thing that I’ve always wanted to do. My children’s book is getting published in spring 2022. My book will introduce young minorities to the Art and Cultural heritage world and encourage them to follow their dreams. 

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
Even though I majored in History and have extensive knowledge of the topic, I don’t know it all. That’s the beautiful thing about History; there will always be discoveries to add or change the narrative. I will never know it all. I like to keep up with new sources and information via the Smithsonian website. I love that the Smithsonian allows us to explore their collections online. 

I also have to admit that I’m still that girl who goes to the library to do research. My grandmother purchased a set of encyclopedias for me when I was three or four years old, which my mom has kept up with ever since. So, if you can get your hands on an old encyclopedia set, I would recommend it. Seeing how information has changed and how much new knowledge has been explored since then is enlightening. 

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