Falling Star, 1979, Romare Bearden Lithograph, 36 1/4 x 30 1/2 is one of the many wonderful pieces included in the Kinsey Collection Courtesy Photo
In a softly lit corridor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery hangs Blue Jazz. This rhythmic, abstract oil painting by Bill Dallas, luminous with vibrant blue hues, is just one of more than 100 items on display as part of a new Smithsonian Institute exhibit that opened on Oct. 15 in Northwest.
The Kinsey Collection, a traveling exhibit which will be in the District until May 1, 2011, is the work of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey who have spent the last 40 years collecting paintings, sculpture, documents, and other artifacts that represent more than 200 years of African American heritage.
Last modified on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 17:41
The Los Angeles couple, who are both alumni of Florida A & M University, said they take pride in the fact that this collection is their own personal take on African American history.
“What really interests me is getting underneath the traditional definitions of historical events and documents, in order to provide an alternative point of view,” said Bernard Kinsey in his book, The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Where Art and History Intersect.
“By displaying artifacts that show African American perspectives, I hope to dispel the myths that still prevail about black contributions – about family, hard work, and genius; about Jim Crow and the courage of our people. It is important to be able to connect scholarship to tangible artifacts that document this history, so that it can be seen and known in another way.”
Robinett Brooks and her 11-year-old daughter Kennedy came all the way from Richmond, Va. on Fri., Oct. 29, to visit several of the Smithsonian’s exhibits including the Kinsey Collection.
“I enjoyed the exhibit. It was very educational; my daughter and I learned a lot,” said Brooks, 41, who admitted liking the paintings in the exhibit best. “I liked learning about the Kinseys— I hadn’t heard anything about them— I hope to come back so I can spend more time,” she said.
Kennedy, who was on a 5th grade field trip with her schoolmates, agreed with her mother that the paintings were her favorite part of the collection. “I like the purple tree one [the best],” she said in reference to Fugue, a “velvety” oil landscape by Richard Mayhew, a renowned African-American painter from New York.
Although the Kinsey Collection is home to numerous paintings, it also is chock-full of artifacts which document all areas of early African American life—some not so pleasant.
Behind a large clear case, museum patrons can view an original “Schedule of over Five Hundred Slaves.” This large vellum document written in 1820 is slave owner William Law’s list of assets, which includes defining information about the slaves he owned. Their names, assumed ages, skin color, country of origin, and descriptive marks were all written down in calligraphy as a reflection of his estate on the island of Grenada.
The Kinsey Collection also contains memorabilia from some of America’s earliest heroes. Frederick Douglass is well represented with an original copy of The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass from 1817 to 1882, on display for all to see. Other Douglass artifacts include a large bronze bust, by the late sculptor Tina Allen, as well as an oration pamphlet he authored in 1852.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the nineteenth addition to the Smithsonian Institute and is currently located on the second floor of the National Museum of American History at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, Northwest. This new museum will soon have its own building which is scheduled to be completed in 2015 and will be located on five acres of land adjacent to the Washington Monument.
The Kinsey Collection can be viewed daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except on December 25. Photography is prohibited, but admission is always free.