Virginia Wyman, a native of Seattle, Washington, is the founder, owner, and operator of The Ruins, a private dining club with catering services, located in Seattle. She is a graduate of the Helen Bush-Parkside School (now known as the Bush School) and received a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1972.
Wyman is a founding board member of James & Janie Washington Foundation, a house museum established by a leading black artist and his wife in the Central District, Seattle’s historic African American section, to promote art as well as community and social justice. She has served on the board since 1997 and is currently its vice president. She has also been a member of the University of Washington Press Advisory Board since 2000. She has also served on the board of directors of the Western States Black Research & Education Center, now known as the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum in Culver City, California.
Ms. Wyman’s awards include the Ned Behnke Leadership Award for exceptional vision and courage from the Northwest AIDS Foundation, 1996, and the Service in the Arts Award from the Edwin Pratt Fine Arts Center, Seattle, in 2006.
Ms. Wyman’s profound interest in African American history, literature, and culture began in the 1980s with her study of the Black Panther Party for which the available material was vast and rich. One subject led to another and she had soon amassed a library of African American literature with over 250 titles. She then realized that African American history and culture had to be actively preserved in order to guarantee its availability in the future. Consequently she became a patron and supporter of efforts like Black Bird Books, a Seattle bookstore which housed a collection of African American history and literature. When she learned that Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York housed a collection of 10 million objects and was the nation’s largest repository for information on people of African descent worldwide, she became a supporter and attended seminars there. When she learned of the efforts of Dr. Mayme A. Clayton who had singlehandedly collected over 14,000 books, photography, records and other objects concerning African American history and culture and was storing them in a pre-fab garage in her Los Angeles backyard, she immediately contacted Dr. Clayton and provided assistance at a critical time. With her help the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum was born. The collection has grown to 3.5 million objects and the Museum’s website describes it as “one of the largest and most academically substantial independently-held collection of objects, documents and memorabilia on African American history and culture” in the world.
Ms. Wyman is a charter member of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open on the Mall in Washington D.C. in 2015. She is also a member of the Association of African American Museums. In 2003 Ms. Wyman led her family in establishing the V Ethel Willis White Endowment for African American History & Literature at the University of Washington Press which has published nearly a dozen books of African American interest to date.
Beginning in 2012 Ms. Wyman became a member of the Board of Directors of BlackPast.org, which seemed a logical next step in her lifelong commitment to assisting in the preservation of African American history and culture. She writes, “My interest in African American History & Literature is deep and abiding. BlackPast.org has increased exponentially the availability of all the material posted on its website. I am honored to be chosen as a board member of BlackPast.org.”