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.
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