National Museum of African American History and Culture Brings “Treasures” to Detroit Nov. 20

October 25, 2010
News Release

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will co-host a daylong program to help Detroit-area residents identify and preserve items of historical and cultural significance tucked away in the attics, closets and basements of their homes. Presented in collaboration with the Detroit Public Library, the event will feature presentations, hands-on activities and preservation tips.

The program will take place Saturday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the main branch of the library at 5201 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. It will feature welcoming remarks by Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum, and Jo Anne G. Mondowney, executive director of the library. Free and open to the public, the event is the eighth in a series from the museum’s signature program “Save Our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative of Discovery and Preservation.”

Participants can reserve in advance to bring up to three personal items for a 20-minute, one-on-one 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, paper and textiles no larger than a shopping bag (furniture, carpets, firearms and paintings are excluded) can be reviewed. Those wishing to have items reviewed must make reservations by
e-mailing or by calling toll free (877) 733-9599. Reservations are not required for those not wishing a one-on-one consultation. Additional information is available at

“We are extremely proud to bring ‘Save our African American Treasures’ to Detroit,” said Bunch. “We encourage people 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. Nineteenth- and 20th-century objects—family photographs, military uniforms, farm tools and wedding dresses—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.”

“We are excited and pleased to provide Detroit-area residents the opportunity to discover, preserve and celebrate their personal histories,” said Mondowney. Their participation in this worthwhile event will have a lasting and loving impact on generations yet unborn.”

As a key stop on the Underground Railroad, a major destination in the Great Migration, the city where the Motown sound was born and Rosa Parks called home, Detroit’s significance to the history of African Americans cannot be overlooked. It is the artifacts of this rich history that “Treasures” seeks to preserve.

The “Treasures” program also includes the following sessions:

  • Preservation Presentations:Informal basic preservation sessions will take place during the day. The first session will provide information about the treasures in the Detroit Public Library’s special collections. During the following session participants can learn about how to preserve textiles and how the National Museum of African American History and Culture will use textiles to tell stories in its new museum. The final two sessions of the day will be dedicated to the preservation of paper and digital photographs.

  • 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.

  • Oral Histories:Participants may record a brief personal memory, a family story or a memory of a historical event. Family members are encouraged to interview each other.

Also on hand at the event will be Mix 93 FM's Foody who will distribute door prizes and conduct call-ins to the station.

Future events will be held in Jackson, Miss., and New York City. “Save our African American Treasures” was 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 2015.

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 and to individuals, community groups and educators to highlight the importance of proper preservation techniques. The guidebook is part of the “Treasures” kit. Also distributed will be white cotton gloves, archival tissue papers and archival documents 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 2015, it will be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is 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 or call Smithsonian information at
(202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

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