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Smithsonian looks at Albany treasures

Baker County resident Grace Miller, left, watches as Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture photo reviewer Alice Carver-Kubik examines a frame containing an 1890s portrait photograph of her grandmother during the “Treasures” event at Albany State University’s student center Saturday.

Baker County resident Grace Miller, left, watches as Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture photo reviewer Alice Carver-Kubik examines a frame containing an 1890s portrait photograph of her grandmother during the “Treasures” event at Albany State University’s student center Saturday.

ALBANY, Ga. — In the style of television's "Antiques Roadshow," the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture arrived at Albany State University on Saturday.

The program, titled "Save Our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative of Discovery and Preservation," centered on African-American heirlooms and artifacts and included tips on how to protect and preserve them.

Throughout the day, visitors to the University's Student Center were encouraged to confer with museum specialists or independent consultants pertaining to specific family relics.

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Curators Nancy Bercaw, left, of Washington, D.C., and Susan Neill, right, of Chiacgo, examine a handmade quilt during the treasures event Saturday at the Albany State University student center. The event was co-hosted by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. (March 9, 2013)

"I'm just amazed at the stuff people have in their closets and attics," said Kim Peach, a Smithsonian consultant. "We must continue to preserve these items for our shared heritage."

There were piecemeal quilts, Masonic aprons and lot of photographs, including Grace Miller's oval-framed portrait of her grandmother, which photo reviewer Alice Carver-Kubik judged to date somewhere around the late 1880s. A family Bible was even older. An African spear was considered to be a weapon and so was evaluated outside the building.

Not every object originated with African-American sources.

"A lot of our treasures are from many different races, not just African-American," said James Gordon, public affairs specialist with the Smithsonian Institution. "People bring in objects that may be related to African Americans or not. (People) just want to have them evaluated by museum professionals.

"In Topeka, Kansas, recently, most of our visitors were not African-American at all. We stress in our publicity that our programs are open to everyone."

According to Gordon, Albany was selected for the program because of ASU, the city's large African-American population and its general history, which predates the American Civil War.

"This is the 11th program we've done,"Gordon said, "and we're doing a lot more in the South."

In addition to evaluation services, the Saturday program included museum mini-seminars with tips for preserving family photographs and textiles, which, for museum purposes, include flags, rag dolls, linens, curtains — anything with fabric.

"We encourage people to become aware of the artifacts and recollections related to the civil rights activity that took place in Southwest Georgia, to protect and to preserve them so the story of African Americans in this country can be told," Lonnie Burch, director of the museum, said in a written statement.

Also planned for the treasures program, were two panel discussions on the legacy of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Southwest Georgia and the ongoing struggle for civil rights.

Comments

Ihope4albany 1 year, 9 months ago

This event was great! The Smithsonian staff members were wonderful, Albany State University's facilities were welcoming, the panelists' stories were riveting, and the participants were excited. The Freedom Singers and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagan vocals were awesome.

I hope for more cultural activities like these.

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