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NMAAHC Culture Collections

The culture collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture presents a comprehensive sweep of African American creative expression including music, literary arts, religion, language, beauty, culture, entertainment and sports. It also includes material culture like the building arts, whether on a small scale like baskets, quilts and crafts as well as architecture.

As a national museum representing culture, the collection represents the diverse African American experience from across the country, focusing on regional, ethnic, and generational differences. The artifacts, archival materials (such as letters, ethnographic records, photographs, documentary records, etc.) artistic images and recordings support the documentation of African American originality, adaptation and creative inventiveness. The museum is also interested in the many ways that African Americans pass on cultural traditions from one generation to the next.

African Americans have consciously and unconsciously preserved elements of African cultural heritage in a variety of cultural forms such as hair, dance, language, or kinship patterns. The museum’s collection reflects these connections to the Diaspora from Africa to the Caribbean and Europe.

The kinds of artifacts that we are collecting are those that are linked to African American adornment (fashion and style) humor, religion, theater, graffiti, sports, hip-hop and music.

Playbill, Hello Dolly!, c. 1967 - 1969. Pearl Bailey as Dolly and Cab Calloway in the role of Horace Vandegider led the all-black cast in the 1967 production of Hello Dolly at the St. James Theatre in New York City.  Gift of Terry Owens.

Transit Pass, St. Louis, MO, July 8-14, 1945

Product tin, Madam C. J. Walker's manufacturing Co. Indianapolis, IN, c. 1925

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Image Courtesy of Swann Galleries