The Smithsonian Natural Museum of African American History & Culture held a photo contest in the summer of 2016. The purpose was to help the museum select photos for its display celebrating the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The museum has collections that tell stories through the African American lens.
The Natural Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape our nation. The Grand opening was held on September 24, 2016.
NMAAHC has selections from their permanent collection available for people to view online. The museum has been collecting items – both large and small – that tell the story of America through an African American lens. The exhibition features more than 33,000 artifacts. These artifacts are a starting point to share stories about African American history, community, and culture.
The NMAAHC website has some stories that you can explore. Each includes an important artifact or object that was a part of the story. You can also search through additional artifacts via the website.
The NMAAHC is the home of the Scurlock Collection, which contains over 200,000 photos. They selected 12 of them, in pairs of two, and asked people to vote on which of each pair of photos they thought should be selected for the NMAAHC display celebrating its opening. A total of 1,000 votes were cast.
When the contest was over, the NMAAHC exhibit team figured out a way to use all of the photos. They enlarged the favorited photos as free-standing images in the display. The rest were presented in “snapshot” size on the labels. The labels also included some of the comments that the NMAAHC received about a specific photo.
The display, which was called “Celebration: Snapshots of African American Communities”, documented life in African-American communities. The museum didn’t have very much information about the stories behind the photos in this collection. A woman named Eunice recognized one of the photos and was able to share more information about it.
The photo was of a party at Mrs. Howard’s Nursery School that Eunice attended. The photo was taken in March of 1949. You can read more about Mrs. Howard’s Nursery School in a lovely blog post that the NMAAHC put together.
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