African American Treasures

Explore Initiative

Save Our African American Treasures is a collaboration among cultural institutions, community leaders and the public to preserve and collect African American material culture.

Learn more about Save Our African American Treasures in-museum and community outreach programs.

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The Museum 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 (SOAAT) features presentations, hands-on activities, and preservation tips.

One goal of our Treasures program is to connect program participants with their local museums, archives, and preservation organizations. And to honor personal pieces of American history in their own backyard.

Museum Educator National Museum of African American History and Culture
Participants in the Treasures Program

Participants at a Save Our African American Treasures program event. 

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Our Programs

Saving Our African American Treasures offers an in-museum program, District Treasures, and a remote traveling program, Hometown Treasures. All programs are designed to engage visitors, stimulate nation-wide preservation activities, and promote collaborations among cultural institutions and their respective communities.

District Treasures

District Treasures is held in Washington, D.C. at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Participants can register and bring up to three personal treasures for professional review.

Hometown Treasures

Hometown Treasures travels to a select city annually. In collaboration with strategic hometown hosts the National Museum of African American History and Culture promotes the preservation of family treasures nationally. Local community members are invited to attend preservation workshops, professional reviews, and Expos.

Please visit the Museum Events Calendar for scheduled dates and registration information.

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 Denver, CO

Saving Our Treasures

Toolkits for Individuals, Families, Groups and Organizations

Simple, Low-cost, Preservation Tips for Individuals

This Family Treasures Toolkit provides resources to assist you in understanding how to preserve your family treasures so they are available for future generations. Treasures are objects that hold special meaning and tell stories about the experiences of your family. As you discover items, turn to this guide for tips on how to preserve your family treasures.
Learn More

Host a Hometown Treasures Program for Your Community

This digital Hometown Treasures Toolkit for Groups and Organizations serves as a step-by-step guide to hosting a Hometown Treasures program for your community. You may choose to only conduct the program’s hallmark – the professional reviews. You may also choose to customize the program to meet the needs of your organization, group, or community.
Learn More

'Quick Tips' for Preserving Your Family Treasures

Keep family treasures safe for future generations with these tips from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute.

  • Don't pull a book out by its spine as this can cause damage. Instead pull a book out by pressing on either side or by pushing out from behind
  • Store books standing up and not on their sides
  • Be careful when opening or photocopying a book. Support the spine and try to open only as wide as necessary
  • Do not use staples, paperclips, tape or glue
  • Keep away from light
  • Avoid extreme fluctuations in heat and humidity
  • Keep storage areas clean to avoid attracting insects and rodents

Source: Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Handling Paper Artifacts.

  • Take it (wedding dress, family quilt, etc.) off the hanger
  • Protect it from light by placing it in an acid-free box
  • Inside the box, it is important to use acid-free tissue, as well. Place rolls of tissue between the folds of the textile for support
  • Do not store textiles in an attic or basement. Instead store in a cool, dry area that is not susceptible to extremes in temperature and humidity and that is free from pests and dust
  • Handle with clean hands
  • Before handling remove bracelets, necklaces, rings, tags, or anything that could catch or cling to a textile or its surface

Source: Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Handling Textiles & Costumes.

  • Avoid extreme fluctuations in heat and humidity
  • When possible, protect from light, such as direct sunlight from a window
  • Protect from liquids and heat (on tables, use coasters and insulated trivets)
  • Use care when moving furniture. Maintain a firm grip and do not wear gloves
  • Hold and carry the piece at its strongest part—hold a chair by the seat rail (not its back or by the hand rail) and hold a table by its apron (not its top or legs)
  • Use a soft damp cloth to remove dust instead of furniture polish and feather dusters

Source: Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Furniture Care and Handling.

  • Avoid extreme fluctuations in heat and humidity
  • Keep liquids away to prevent spills and stains
  • Keep hands clean to avoid stains
  • Do not use staples, paperclips, tape or glue
  • Protect it from light by placing it in acid free folders and boxes
  • Do not store in wooden drawers or cardboard boxes. Store documents flat instead of rolled or folded
  • Make sure documents are supported from underneath when handling
  • Make a copy to use for research or display and keep the original in proper storage
  • Avoid laminating documents or any other process that is not easily reversible
  • Separate acidic papers such as newspaper from other documents
  • Keep storage areas clean to avoid attracting insects and rodents

Source: Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Handling Paper Artifacts.

  • Protect photos from light by placing them in acid free folders, sleeves and boxes
  • Keep liquids away to prevent spills and stains
  • Keep hands clean to avoid stains
  • Do not use staples, paperclips, tape or glue
  • Protect it from light by placing it in acid free folders and boxes
  • Do not store in wooden drawers or cardboard boxes. Store documents flat instead of rolled or folded
  • Make a copy to use for research or display and keep the original in proper storage
  • Keep storage areas clean to avoid attracting insects and rodents
  • Be aware that many commercially available photo albums contain acidic paper, harmful plastics and adhesives. Avoid laminated photo albums
  • Avoid buffered tissue paper and plastic sleeves that contain polyvinylchloride (PVC)

Source: Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, Handling Paper Artifacts.​