The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center


The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center is a space where you can find digital resources related to family history, receive expert guidance on how to conduct genealogical research and oral history interviews, view objects from the Museum's collection relating to family history, and learn how to preserve your own family films, videos, and photographs.

The Center also features an interactive digital experience, Transitions in Freedom: The Syphax Family, which traces the history of African American families from slavery to freedom through archival documents, maps, photographs, and other records.  Public programs and workshops provide in-depth information and hands-on learning opportunities related to family history, research, and preservation.

Five generations of the Sumner family, Annapolis, MD, early-1950s

The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center is located on Level 2 of the Museum as part of the Explore More! gallery. It is envisioned as a way to leverage 21st century technology to engage and educate all Museum visitors. As an interactive research space, it will be a digital repository of select contributions of materials related to individuals, families, and communities by African Americans from across the country.

The Center celebrates our nation’s collective experience, from the early 16th century arrival in the Americas of the first people of African descent to the present, in a nationwide preservation effort that captures photographs, audiovisual oral histories, and images of artifacts to demonstrate the connections between American history and African American family and community stories. This innovative facility allows visitors of all ages to discover the wonders of family history while enabling those offsite to participate in the Center virtually.

The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center is located on the second level of the Museum, in the Explore More! gallery.

The Community Curation online platform (CCP) is a new initiative being developed by the Museum for the digitization and curation of African American community history. The CCP seeks to bridge the generational divide in African American communities by enabling participants to share their stories by uploading digitized photographs and video using their mobile phones or a desktop computer to an online browser based platform where stories can be viewed and shared by participants.

The CCP online platform is just one aspect of the Museum's Community Curation Program that seeks to empower the public to collect and share family histories—from before the Industrial Age, through the Information Age, and beyond. The Community Curation Program serves to educate the public on digital preservation and archiving practices while providing opportunities to share and learn from  the communal stories of African American life, history, and culture.

The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center featuring the CCP will become a “go-to” place for those who wish to explore African American family and community history and research the African American experience. The experience of African Americans is documented by myriad stories that reveal a rich past entwined with and contributing to America’s complex history. These stories need to be told and woven into the magnificent tapestry of African American history. It is vital that stories like yours be captured for current and future generations before they are lost. Digital documentation will allow the history of African Americans to reach a wide audience, far beyond the Museum’s walls. This will build understanding and knowledge at home and abroad about the contributions of African Americans to our nation and the world.

The Community Curation online platform allows you to upload and share your digitized family and community history. Visit the Community Curation Platform website for information about how to participate and guidelines for submitting your stories.

The Museum receives on a weekly basis numerous offers of historical and art objects for the Museum to consider for its collection and unfortunately we cannot give these offers the attention they deserve. Therefore the Museum is requesting that potential donors hold on to their materials a little longer and reconsider proposing collection donations in 2017. At that time, a collection donation form will be accessible on the Museum website.

To learn more about the Family History Center and receive periodic updates about our programs, please email the Museum at

The funding provided by Robert Frederick Smith supports the Community Curation Program and the Explore Your Family History Center. Mr. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a leading enterprise software-focused private equity firm. Mr. Smith has been widely recognized for his business achievements and global philanthropic efforts, including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chairman’s Award, the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation, the Ripple of Hope Award from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies, and the Archdiocese of New York Pierre Toussaint Medal.

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