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Smithsonian and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to Present  “Save Our African American Treasures” Sept. 6


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will co-host a daylong program to help Birmingham-area residents identify and preserve items of historical and cultural significance tucked away in their attics, closets, basements and garages. The event will feature presentations, hands-on activities and preservation tips.

The program will take place Saturday, Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Institute, located at 520 Sixteenth St. North in Birmingham. Free and open to the public, the event is called “Save Our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative of Discovery and Preservation.” It is the 15th in a series held across the country since 2008. All are welcome.

Participants are invited to bring up to three personal items for a 15-minute, professional consultation with experts on how to care for them. The specialists will serve as reviewers, not appraisers, and will not determine items’ monetary values. Objects such as books, photographs, ceramics, metalwork and textiles no larger than a shopping bag (furniture, carpets, weapons and paintings are excluded) can be reviewed. Additional information is available at nmaahc.si.edu or by emailing treasures@si.edu or calling (877) 733-9599.

“We are extremely proud of bringing ‘Save Our African American Treasures’ to Birmingham and of our partnership with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute,” said LonnieBunch, director of the Smithsonian museum. “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.”

“It is invaluable to have the Smithsonian’s ‘Save our African American Treasures’ program come to Birmingham,” said Priscilla Hancock Cooper, interim president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  “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.”

· Preservation Presentations: Informal basic preservation sessions will take place during the day. The sessions will provide information on preserving clothing and textiles, as well as family photographs and papers. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions.

· Hands-on Preservation: In this hands-on activity, participants are invited to learn how to properly store letters, pack garments and prepare photographs for preservation storage and presentation.

“Save Our African American Treasures” is made possible with support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grants also support the pre-design and construction of the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., scheduled to open in 2016.

As a companion to the series, the museum has produced African American Treasures: A Preservation Guide, a 30-page guidebook that is distributed free to attendees to highlight the importance of proper preservation techniques. The guidebook is part of the “Treasures” kit. Also distributed will be white cotton gloves for handling delicate artifacts, archival tissue paper and archival document sleeves to help people keep their personal treasures safe.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the building is under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., adjacent to the Washington Monument. The museum is currently producing publications, hosting public programs and assembling collections. It is presenting exhibitions at other museums across the country and at its own gallery at the National Museum of American History. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.smit.600

The mission of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) is to promote civil and human rights worldwide through education. Opening its doors in 2012, BCRI presents an in-depth look at the civil rights movement, especially in Birmingham, from before the movement’s inception through today’s international struggle for universal human rights.


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