Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Smithsonian Coming to Birmingham to Evaluate African-American Treasures
Four African American girls killed by the Ku Klux Klan on Sept.
15, 1963 in Birmingham.
By Michael Huebner
August 25, 2014 at 12:00 PM, updated August 27, 2014 at 10:19 AM

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – The Smithsonian Institution is asking African-American families in Birmingham to scour through their attics, basements and garages for family treasures.

Specialists from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture will be at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on Saturday, Sept. 6, to review the objects, not for their monetary value, but to evaluate their historical and cultural significance. The program, titled "Save Our African American Treasures," will take place from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Items such as books, photographs, ceramics, metalwork and textiles can be brought in, but no more than three objects will be reviewed, as long as they fit in a shopping bag. Large objects such as furniture, carpets, weapons and painting are excluded.

The program is the 15th in the Smithsonian series that launched nationwide in 2008.

"We are extremely proud of bringing 'Save Our African American Treasures' to Birmingham and of our partnership with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute," said Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian museum, in a statement. "Birmingham is one of the most significant cities in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. We encourage citizens of the area to become aware of what they have, to protect it and to preserve it so the story of African Americans in this country can be told. Citizens hold the 19th and 20th century objects―family photographs, military uniforms, farm tools and wedding dresses―that can help tell this story for future generations. If we do not act now to preserve these items, the tangible evidence of a critical component of American history will be lost."

Although the specialists will not appraise the items, they will give hands-on tips for storing letters, packing garments and preserving photographs in 15-minute sessions. Also during the day-long event, informal presentations will take place to provide information on preserving clothing and textiles.

Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions. Participants will also receive a free 30-page guidebook highlighting the importance of proper preservation techniques, white cotton gloves for handling delicate artifacts, archival tissue paper and archival document sleeves to help keep the items safe.

"It is invaluable to have the Smithsonian's 'Save our African American Treasures' program come to Birmingham," said BCRI Interim President and CEO Priscilla Hancock Cooper. "We are excited to have them here to share preservation information and to heighten awareness of the importance of African Americans saving their family documents and artifacts."

The program is supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grants also support the pre-design and construction of the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which is scheduled for a 2016 opening.

For more information about "Save Our African American Treasures," see, call 877-733-9599 or email

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is located at 520 16th Street North. The event is free and open to the public.

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