What is in our collection?
The Northwest African American Museum houses approximately 200 artifacts. Most were gathered from the Colman School building before it was renovated in 2006 and include material left by the activists who inhabited the vacant building from 1985 to 1993. The remainder of the collection is a mix of ephemera, studio art, periodicals, photographs, documents, clothing and books. All of these objects are geographically tied to the Pacific Northwest and were donated by community members.
In 2010, a Collections Committee was established to guide the Museum in its collecting endeavors. The Committee used three main criteria when determining which objects should be added to our collection:
1) Are they are geographically tied to the Pacific Northwest?
2) Do they illustrate stories about or told by African Americans?
3) Are they are structurally sound and is NAAM able to care for them in perpetuity?
Can I donate an object to NAAM?
Currently, NAAM is not accepting unsolicited donations. In April 2012, the Board of Directors ratified a Strategic Plan that called for the pause of NAAM’s collecting for at least five years in order to assess its capacity for collecting and evaluate space feasibility. During this time, NAAM will continue to survey and care for its collection, incorporate artifacts into its exhibition program when appropriate; and make them available for independent research or loan to other museums.
Does NAAM offer object appraisals?
NAAM does not provide identification, authentication or appraisal services. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, NAAM declines to recommend individual appraisers or provide references to those seeking information on an appraiser.
An object’s value can often be determined by consulting one of the many price guides available in libraries and bookstores. Some price guides provide approximate values for different types of objects; others offer specific price information. If you wish to obtain a formal, written appraisal of an object (for which you will most likely be charged a fee), please consult the following professional associations to find an accredited appraiser in your area.
American Society of Appraisers
11107 Sunset Hills Rd, Suite 310
Reston, VA 20190
Phone: 703.478.2228 or 800.272.8258
Appraisers Association of America
386 Park Avenue South, Suite 2000
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212.889.5404 x14
International Society of Appraisers
303 West Madison St., Suite 2650
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: 312. 981.6778
Northwest Black Pioneers: Preserving and Rehousing the Original Collection
Anne Melton, Membership Manager and Administrative Coordinator
Thanks to a grant from 4 Culture, I have been working on an independent project at the Northwest African American Museum to conserve the Northwest Black Pioneers collection.
The Northwest Black Pioneers collection came to NAAM in April of 2008 and consists of photographs, newspaper articles, and interpretive panels highlighting the historical contributions of Black pioneers and their descendants to the Pacific Northwest. The collection contains images of African American ballplayers, church leaders, politicians and other important pioneers from our region, and in the 1980s was lovingly curated into a traveling exhibit by a steering committee of dedicated individuals. The first showing of the original exhibit took place in 1988 at the Bon Marché/Macy’s department store in Downtown Seattle, and subsequently the Northwest Black Pioneers diligently toured the exhibition to over 100 cities and towns in the Pacific Northwest. By 2006, however, the exhibit was stored in a tractor-trailer parked at a Bon Marche storage facility parking lot in Tacoma. In 2008, the Northwest Black Pioneers, the Links Incorporated of Seattle, and NAAM collaborated to rescue the exhibit and create a plan to make it available to researchers, local organizations and community venues.
In 2009, a NAAM intern worked very hard to clean up, catalogue and properly store approximately 50% of the collection. Thanks to a generous grant from 4Culture, I have been working since September of 2012 to tackle the remainder of the project, and I am happy to say that it is complete!
Adhering to the conservation guidelines of the National Parks Service and the American Association of Museums, each photo was meticulously cared for. This included removing original photo mats and adhesives to prevent further damage caused by harmful acids and dyes that are found in many matting and mounting materials. Once this was done, each photo was given a catalogue number based on its order of presentation within the original traveling panels. They were then labeled placed in archival folders, and then stored in acid-free boxes for preservation. All information associated with the photo was recorded into a spreadsheet along with the catalog number and storage location. This means that all artifacts now have a unique identifier, and all related information is stored securely in one place. Should someone desire to view a photo, it can be easily located for convenient access, education, and research.
While a sense of accomplishment prevails upon completion of this project, there is also a hint of sadness. In working with the artifacts so intimately, I came to know the people who appeared on the photographs. With them, I have shared in their loving family gatherings, cheered the bucking broncos at the Pendleton Round Up, and learned about the impressive accomplishments of the African American pioneers who contributed so much to our rich history. However, now that the collection is reorganized, I am consoled and truly delighted that researchers can access this remarkable collection and make their own connections with the Northwest Black Pioneers!
Sponsored by 4Culture