Before the age of YouTube and Instagram, public audiences learned about the happenings at the Smithsonian in newspapers, on the radio, and via public television programming. Between 1982 and 1989, TV viewers could catch up with the Smithsonian’s latest exhibitions and research activities through short video features in a series called Here At The Smithsonian.
To celebrate Black History Month, we’re highlighting clips that take us back to two exhibitions that featured Black art and artists at Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum.
In the second clip below, director John Kinard explained that the Museum is a space to explore challenges and achievements from a Black American point of view. “The mission of this museum is to tell an original story—a story all too often we’ve been left out of.”
From September 1985 until December 1986, the Museum examined the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural explosion of African American music, visual arts, literature, theater, and beyond that sparked the American public’s interest in Black art and culture. Visitors to The Renaissance: Black Arts of the Twenties were invited to listen to jazz and blues as they took in 225 objects, such as original sheet music, band instruments, historical photographs, books, and playbills.
This next clip welcomed television audiences to the Museum’s new and larger home, only 10 blocks from its original space in the Carver Theater. Rather than take visitors back in time, Contemporary Visual Expressions, on display for two months in 1987, considered Black American experiences through the work of four contemporary artists. In the video, artists Sam Gilliam and Martha Jackson-Jarvis were interviewed about their work.
Tune in on the last Tuesday of each month to explore more video features from Here at the Smithsonian. Interested in more? Head to our YouTube playlist of recently-uploaded clips from the series.
- Office of Telecommunications Productions, 1982-1989, Accession 00-132, Smithsonian Institution Archives