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Save Our African American Treasures

Save Our African American Treasures is a collaboration among cultural institutions, community leaders and the public to preserve and collect African American material culture. NMAAHC launched the Treasures program in January, 2008.

At each event, members of the public learn how to preserve their family photographs and papers, military uniforms, quilts and the other ephemera that document African American life. Save Our African American Treasures features presentations, hands-on activities and preservation tips.

Our Next Treasures: Save Our African American Treasures - Washington, DC

When, Where, Who?

  • Save Our African American Treasures

    Saturday, November 8th from 10:00 A.M.
    to 5:00 P.M.

    Sunday, November 9th from 12:00 P.M.
    to 5:00 P.M.

    The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
    801 K Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20001

    The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is housed in the Carnegie Library and is located 2 blocks south of the Mount Vernon Sq/7th St-Convention Center Metro Station (yellow and green lines) and 2 blocks north of the Gallery Pl-Chinatown Metro station (red, yellow, and green lines. Please check for detailed trip planning information.

    Street parking can be difficult but there are several paid lots and garages in the immediate area.

Presentation Schedule

  • Saving Your Family Photographs and Papers
    Saturday at 11:00 AM —Sunday at 12:30 PM

    Great Aunt Mary left you with the responsibility of preserving the family photographs and papers – now what do you do? Learn how light, heat, and humidity affect your family collections. Discover some simple things you can do to be a good steward of your family paper and photography collections.
    Presenter: Siobhan Creem, Owner and Founder, Photograph Preservation and Research LLC

    12:00 PM Preserving Digital Memories
    Saturday at 12:30 PM — Sunday at 1:30 PM

    Digital photos and other new media are fragile and require special care to keep them useable. As new technologies appear for creating and saving our personal digital information, older ones become obsolete, making it difficult to access older content. Find out more about the nature of the problem and learn some simple, practical tips for preserving your digital memories.
    Presenter: Erin Engle, Digital Archivist, Library of Congress

    Preserving Clothing and Textiles
    Saturday at 2:00 PM — Sunday at 2:30 PM

    What is a “textile” in the museum world? Rag dolls, flags/banners, hats, lace, linens, needlework, quilts/blankets, uniforms, upholstery/curtains – think fabric. Come and get some tips on how to better preserve your daughter’s christening gown, your grandmother’s wedding dress, or your father’s military uniform from a professional who works in the field of textile preservation.
    Presenter: Renee Anderson, Head of Collections, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

    Building a Museum: The National Museum of African American History and Culture
    Saturday at 3:30 PM — Sunday at 3:30 PM

    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, it under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. Come learn more about the making of a national museum!
    Saturday Presenter: Bryan Sieling, Chief of Design, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
    Sunday Presenter: John Franklin, Senior Manager, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

    Textile Packing Demonstration
    12:30 PM and 2:30 PM

    Learn to store your textiles like a museum professional! Get practical tips to help you preserve special quilts and clothing, such as family uniforms and wedding dresses. See demonstrations of how to pack a quilt or dress using archival materials so you can safely store your pieces for the next generation.
    Presenter: Susan Neill, Independent Costume & Textile Scholar and Museum Consultant

    You may also download the Treasure's Presentation Schedule HERE!

What is Treasures?

  • This program gives residents of the Washington, DC metro area the opportunity to identify and preserve items of historical and cultural significance tucked away in the storage sheds, closets and garages of their homes. Visit with museum professionals to learn how to preserve your family heirlooms, photos, and even digital memories! Attend presentations, speak with professional conservators, and explore the items needed to keep your treasures safe for generations to come!

What to Bring?

  • Participants can bring up to three objects for a 20 minute, one on one professional consultation on how to care for them. Please note that our specialists are reviewers, not appraisers, and cannot determine items' monetary values.

    Objects such as books, paper, textiles, photographs, uniforms, quilts, dolls, bibles, and more are welcome! Items can be no larger than a shopping bag. Furniture, carpets, weapons and paintings are excluded.

    There is no pre-registration for this program.

What Else is There to Do?

  • All Day Saturday!
    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.

    All Day Saturday!
    Community Partners Expo

    Learn more about the wonderful resources available in the Washington DC metro area! Community Partners will distribute materials and answer questions from members of the public.

    Save Our African American Treasures is made possible with support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


(Learn more about what happens at a Treasures Program with this video created by My Detroit Cable’s Lights Camera Culture series as The Smithsonian Institute visited the Detroit Public Library as part of their Save Our African American Treasures tour.)

Past Save Our African American Treasures programs have been held in:

Fort Lauderdale, FL New York, NY
Albany, GA Atlanta, GA
Charleston, SC Chicago, IL
Dallas, TX Detroit, MI
Houston, TX Indianola, MS
Los Angeles, CA St. Helena, SC
Topeka, KS Washington, DC
Birmingham, AL