Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey

Where: National Museum of American History

When: through May 1, 2011

Until the National Museum of African American History opens in several years, those looking for exhibits with African American themes can see the shows at the American History Museum, in a space on the 2nd floor dedicated to aspects of the African American experience. It's no substitute for an entire museum with both permanent and special exhibits, but it's better than nothing.

Previously, I've seen shows on the Apollo Theater and on a Washington DC photography studio that specialized in portraits of African Americans, both of which were quite interesting. The current show, pieces from the collection of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, continues this run of good exhibits.

The Kinseys have been collecting art and historical artifacts for decades, and what I can only imagine is a small part of their collection is on display here. Some of the items that drew my attention were:
  • Blue Jazz, a wonderful painting with absolutely gorgeous colors, blue, aqua, black and silver
  • a copy of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, written by Harriet Jacobs, who was a slave for 20 years, then spent 7 years hiding in an attic before escaping to the North - her story reminded me of Anne Frank and her family
  • a bronze bust of Frederick Douglass, which sat on the Kinsey's kitchen table for years before they acquired a stand for it
  • Mt. Tacoma from Lake Washington, by Grafton Tyler Brown, a painting in shades of gray
One area of the show is set up as a model of their home. It's lovely, with art on the walls and rare books to examine on the shelves. The show is as much a testament to the hard work of the collector, as it is to the items on display.

Verdict: This show is worth a trip. Even if you can't spend as much time as you might like here in one lunch hour, you can get a good feel for the collection in a short time.

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