During 2000-2006, numerous American and South African cultural heritage partnerships were formed as part of a bi-national South African National Cultural Heritage Project. At that time the Nelson Mandela Museum (Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa) and the Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan, USA) forged a partnership and have since collaborated on many research, exhibition, and education programs. Their co-produced Dear Mrs Parks, Dear Mr Mandela: Children’s Letters, Global Lessons exhibition was first launched at the Nelson Mandela Museum in 2008 as part of the celebrations of Mr. Mandela’s 90th birthday. It was funded by a grant from the American Association of Museums, through its Museums and Community Collaborations Abroad Program, a partnership program with the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Additional financial support was provided by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. A U.S. version of the exhibition was subsequently shown at the MSU Museum in 2010 and traveling versions of the exhibition have since been circulated to many venues in the United States and South Africa.
In 2020, the Nelson Mandela Museum received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to create a new physical iteration of the exhibition, a digital version, and related curriculum materials. The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development joined the Nelson Mandela Museum and the MSU Museum as a primary partner in this new endeavor. In addition, the revised exhibition benefits from the input of staff of the Robben Island Museum (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa), Mind-builders (Bronx, NYC, USA), University of Stellenbosch Museum (Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa), and the O Street Museum (Washington, D.C., USA).
Curatorial Team: C. Kurt Dewhurst, Marsha MacDowell, Khwezi ka Mpumlwana, Gregory J. Reed, and Noel Solani.
Curatorial, Editorial, and Design Consultation: Kader Asmal, Arthur Brown, Luli Callinicos, Graham Goddard, Verne Harris, David Hlongwane, Rachel Laws, Pumeza Mandela, Nolubabalo Ngxekana, Jabulani Sithole, Mzomhle Somlensa, Nokuzola Tetani, and Patrice Wilson.
Design and Fabrication: Oryx Multimedia, Roger Friedman and Benny Gool, Directors; Abie Collins, Project Manager; and Nita Nagar, Designer.
Special thanks to Amy Bell-Mulaudzi, Getty Images for photographs, Benny Gool/Oryx Multimedia Archives for photographs, Monika Christian, Major Visions Video Productions, Brittany Tucker, Mark Kerrin, Kimra Kone, Gina M. Brintley, Stephen Furze, Paul Goyette, The Detroit Free Press, The Michigan Chronicle, Monica Morgan, Maurita K. Coley, David Turnley, John Robert Williams, Yusof Omar, Marit Dewhurst, Rehana Odendaal, Iziko Museums, U.S. Consulate in South Africa, U.S. Embassy in South Africa, University of Ft. Hare, and the University of Western Cape-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives.
Curatorial, Editorial, Project Management Team: Neliswe Thwala, Cynthia Carter, Olivia Furman, Madaha Kinsey-Lamb, Marsha MacDowell, Pumeza Mandela, Vanessa Mitchell, Janeke Deodata Thumbran, and Ms. Anita Peek. In addition, assistance was provided by Bonke Tyhulu, Ms. Elaine Eason Steele, C. Kurt Dewhurst, H. H. Leonards, Tracy Halliday, Ulrich Wolff, Laura Johnson, and Vuvu Mayongo.
Design and Fabrication: DreamFuel Media, Abie Collins and Alberic Vollmer, Project Managers; and Keagan Pretorius, Designer.