The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center

Explore

The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center, located on the second floor of the Museum, is a space where you can delve into digital resources related to family history, including the Freedmen’s Bureau Project and genealogical databases, receive expert guidance on how to conduct genealogical research and oral history interviews, see examples of objects from the museum collections relating to family history, and learn how to preserve your own family photographs, documents, and heirlooms. 

The center also features an interactive digital experience, Transitions in Freedom: the Syphax Family, which traces the histories of African American families from slavery to freedom through archival documents, maps, photographs, and other records.  Public programs and workshops provide more 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, which is located in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, is envisioned as a way to leverage 21st-century technology to engage and educate regular Museum visitors, at-risk youth, technologically inclined millennials, and global audiences. 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 will celebrate 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 family and community stories. This innovative, high-tech facility will allow onsite visitors of all ages to discover the wonders of family history while enabling those offsite to participate in the Center remotely. The Center will preserve and share stories, such as a grandmother speaking about attending a segregated school, a grandfather discussing military service, or an uncle talking about his struggle to gain voting rights.

The Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center is on the second level of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Affiliated with the Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center, the Community Curation Program (CCP) is a new initiative sponsored by the Robert Frederick Smith Fund for the Digitization and Curation of African American History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The CCP seeks to bridge the generational divide in African American communities by enabling participants to preserve and share their stories by uploading audio, video, photographs, and other documentation via their smart phones to a central, searchable repository. The CCP is a first-of-its-kind preservation effort that will empower the public to collect and share family histories—from before the Industrial Age through the Information Age and beyond. The CCP will educate the public while bearing witness to 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, in turn, will build understanding and knowledge at home and abroad about the contributions of African Americans to our nation and the world.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will launch the CCP smartphone application for multiple devices in 2017. The application will assist you in digitizing and uploading your family and community history.  Visit the Museum’s website in 2017 for information about how to download the application and guidelines for submitting your stories, photographs, and other documentation.

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 nmaahc-rfsfhc@si.edu.

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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