In 2008, I profiled Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, prominent philanthropists and art collectors who have amassed a historical collection of artifacts documenting the hardship and triumphs of the African American experience. A collection that spans four centuries, “The Kinsey Collection: The Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect,” has been viewed by over 300,000 people in museums across the country, saluted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now will be on display at one of the world’s premier museums, the Smithsonian.
On October 14, 2010, the couple along with their son Khalil hosted a press preview of the collection in the National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery, located in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC. Bernard Kinsey shared that he never dreamed his collection would one day be featured at the Smithsonian; he just simply wanted to inspire future generations to collect and preserve stories, so they wouldn’t be lost or forgotten. The collection features more than 100 items such as bills of sale, advertisements, letters and legal papers documenting the slave trade; hand-colored tintypes from the Civil War era, and items spotlighting key moments in the civil rights movement, including the Woolworth store boycotts and the 1963 March on Washington. The collection also includes artwork by renowned African American artists such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Lois Mailou Jones and Henry O. Tanner.
Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture shared at the preview, “I have opened many exhibitions throughout my career but few have excited, challenged and moved me as has the Kinsey Collection.” He went on to share, “I have been moved by so many of the materials that are housed in this exhibition. Who could not be affected by the letter carried by an enslaved girl only to cruelly discover that the message was about her sale to the person to whom she delivered the note? Or the beautiful document that coldly lists the names and color and condition of slaves that would soon be sold as a result of the death of their owner?”
In 2008, the couple founded the Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Foundation for the Arts and Education, to continue their exhibition in museums across the country, and in schools. In addition to their collection, the Kinsey’s have raised 22 million for education and college scholarships, and have published "The Kinsey Collection," a must read coffee table book.
The exhibition is on display from October 15, 2010 to May 1, 2011. See below for upcoming programs at the National Museum of American History in celebration of the exhibit:
Saturday, October 16, 20102:00-3:30 pm
“What You Didn’t Learn in High School History”
Join Bernard and Shirley Kinsey as they take visitors on an extraordinary journey through art and history that is certain to transform your perspective on the African American experience. A book signing will follow.
Sunday, October 17th from 11:00am–12:00pm
Saturday, October 23rd from 10:00am-12:00pmThe Kinseys lead a special and personal tour of their collection. Hear how they amassed their collection while traveling to exotic destinations around the world. Free and open to public. Ongoing tours. No reservations required. A Q&A and book signing will follow. Location: NMAAHC Gallery, 2nd Floor
Sunday, October 17th1:00-3:00 pm
“A Conversation: Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Discuss Collecting”
Friday, October 22, 20107:15 and 9:00 pm
Smithsonian Teachers’ Night 2010: Tours for Educators Only
Meet the Kinseys and learn about their history and art collection. The Kinseys will introduce teachers to their artifacts and tell how their materials have been used in school systems around the nation. Space is limited; please do not bring children or other guests. Register for this free event at http://www.teachersnight.org/. A book signing will follow.
About the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)The museum was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. The Smithsonian Board of Regents, the governing body of the Institution, voted in January 2006 to build the museum on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument on the National Mall. The building is scheduled to open in 2015. Until then, NMAAHC is presenting its touring exhibitions in major cities across the country and in its own gallery at the National Museum of American History. Learn more at http://nmaahc.si.edu/.