Collectors Picture   ndividuals, families, community groups, and institutions all play crucial roles in preserving the direct evidence of our community's past, its daily life, and its achievements. Collectors serve as keepers of our heritage, documenting and preserving history by developing and maintaining collections of artifacts, documents, and photographs.

People collect historical and cultural material for various reasons: to connect with history; to validate the African American experience from their own perspective; to satisfy their own interests; and to pass on their interpretation of the African American experience to future generations. Also, institutions such as churches, Masonic orders, and fraternities and sororities preserve records, documents, and photographs in order to document their own histories and to share the growth and achievements of the organization with new members.

This is a critical time for the preservation of African American heritage. We are losing important African American historical and cultural materials by damage and destruction. We are losing information to provide context and provenance that can aid in accurate interpretation. In addition, many items are sold haphazardly on the open market. When artifacts are sold in this manner--at auction, at fairs, in private transactions--they are often lost to the public, as some collectors maintain strictly private collections and prefer not to share them with public audiences.

The individuals and institutions represented here preserve these and many other objects and the stories they tell--not simply for their own enjoyment, but especially for public benefit. They have all used their collections to build community-based institutions or to educate the public about African American history and culture.