Obama Mementos Collected, Archived for National African-American Museum

As hundreds of thousands of sets of eyes fixed on Jumbotrons, platforms and parade routes to catch the inaugural pageantry last Monday, two other sets of eyes watched the people watching Obama.

Curators from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture scoured the crowd looking for those standout images and symbols they might want for their Obama collection, which now has about 300 artifacts. They looked for the often handmade shows of connection and support, and the myriad ways the 44th president permeates the culture.

History curator William Pretzer roamed the south side of the Mall near the Hirshhorn Museum, and culture curator Elaine Nichols stayed on the north side, near the Newseum. They would spot someone with a crocheted Obama hat or Obama earrings featuring a super-reduced photo of the president, and ask if they could have the item outright, or hand out cards that urged the wearer to get in touch with the museum if they wished to donate.

“We’re pretty much following the same kind of track that we followed in 2008,” Pretzer says. The museum wants to capture Obama’s “public persona, the appeal to the public via the campaign and his celebration by the electorate.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open in 2015, will feature the Obama collection as part of a history gallery that spans 1968 to 2008. Curators began collecting artifacts after Obama’s 2008 Democratic nomination, and they aren’t sure how many items they’ll end up with.

There’s a blue bedsheet they got from a woman in New Haven, Conn., who painted a poem — the author identified only as a 19-year-old single mother from Mc­Keesport, Pa. — on it in white letters: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Obama could run, Obama is running so our children can fly!”

Read more: WashingtonPost


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