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.

NMAAHC launched the Treasures program in January, 2008

The above media is provided by YouTube (Privacy Policy, Terms of Service)

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.

Please check back on our website for information on future Save Our African American Treasures Programs.

(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

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
  • 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.​