For All the World to See

The Smithsonian Institution Archives will be celebrating African American History Month throughout February with a series of related posts on THE BIGGER PICTURE.

Sepia, November 1959, 13 3/16 x 10 3/16 in., Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimor

This coming June, For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights—organized by Research Professor Maurice Berger for the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture (CADVC) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)—opens at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Bank (Jackie Robinson), c. 1950, Cast metal with bronze plating, 6 1/8 x 5 3/16 x 3 7/8 in., Collect

For All the World to See is the first comprehensive museum exhibition to explore the historical role played by visual images in shaping, influencing, and transforming the fight for civil rights in the United States. Comprised of over 250 objects—including posters, photographs, magazines, newspapers, books, pamphlets, political buttons, comic books, toys, postcards, and clips from film, newsreels, and television—much of the show’s content comes from the Civil Rights Archive that Berger assembled over a six year period for CADVC. Interestingly, while the objects in the archive are important historical artifacts, most were found and purchased on online sites like eBay and Bookfinder, rather than from more conventional vendors of art and historical materials, such as galleries and bricks-and-mortar auction houses.

I Am a Man, 1968, Offset lithograph on paper. 27 15/16 x 21 7/8 in., Collection of Civil Rights Arch

Through the presentation of iconic materials that document the everyday lives of both black and white Americans, For All the World to See attempts to reach museum visitors on a deeply personal and moving level as it offers insights into the way visual imagery forever changed the cultural and social landscape of the United States. To see an online preview of the exhibition, click here. And to read the story Maurice Berger contributed to the Smithsonian Photography Initiative’s project, click! photography changes everything, click here.

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