Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Family Field Trip -The Smithsonian Museum of American History

Take Your Family, Take Your Students to See -

The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington:
Picturing the Promise
at the National Museum of American History!

While visiting Washington DC this past weekend to launch The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, I wanted to go and enjoy the recently renovated National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. I spent a great deal of time doing research in Washington DC for the NCBLA's award-winning publication Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out and the National Museum of American History was a great place to visit for inspiration!

Visiting a museum reminds me of perusing the stacks in a library-- you go in looking for something specific, but the greatest delight is often when you discover something you weren't looking for at all-- that serendipitous discovery of the unexpected! A
nd that is exactly how I felt when I turned a corner and wandered in the Scurlock Studio Photography Exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

What a visual feast! From 1911 to 1994 the Scurlock Studios--- Addison Scurlock and his sons George and Robert--created a moving visual history of the city they loved. They "depicted the complex world of African Americans in Washington, D.C., a city whose black middle class refused to be defined or held captive by racial segregation and discrimination."

The exhibit includes photographs and action shots
chronicling the lives and interests of Howard University students and faculty; stunning portraits; editorial and news photography and so much more. I was especially struck by the Scurlocks use of light in their studio portraits as an element to reveal the individual personality and character of the person they were photographing. My favorite portraits were of a young man, Charles Tignor Duncan, and one of my education and civil rights heroes Mary McLeod Bethune .

And one section of the exhibit literally took my breath away. In a corner of the gallery there was a special exhibit of photographs detailing opera megastar Marian Anderson's critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial. Complimenting the historical photographs on display was not only an event program autographed by Ms. Anderson, but also the fur coat she wore that day, the same fur coat that we have all seen in those historical photos and newsreels!--Only at the Smithsonian can our nation's history come alive in such a tangible manner!!!

Take your kids, your parents, your students, your friends and neighbors to see this riveting American history exhibit of breathtaking photographs--

The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington:
Picturing the Promise
at the National Museum of American History!

And be sure to share the NCBLA's award-winning publication about American history-- Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out-- and visit the NCBLA's Our White House educational website --recently named one of the American Library Association's Best Websites for Kids!-- posted by Mary Brigid Barrett, president and founder of The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.

About the Scurlock Studio exhibit from the Museum of American History:
"Nearly a century's worth of photographs from the Scurlock studio form a vivid portrait of black Washington, D.C., in all its guises—its challenges and its victories, its dignity and its determination. The exhibition features more than 100 images created by one of the premiere African American studios in the country and one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington. Highlights include cameras and equipment from the studio and period artifacts from Washington."

For more information go to:

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