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Honoring American Archives Month: Upcoming October Events & Unsung Portraits Book Announcement

Tanzy Ward

October is American Archives Month, which includes the historical significance of preserving portraits and family heirlooms. Antique portraits of our ancestors are important primary sources and interesting historical reflections from the past. Unfortunately, sometimes inaccurate depictions can overshadow positive self-portrayals. This is true for antique portraits of Black people during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although there is a substantial number of photographs that depict Black Victorians in a poised and elegant way, caricatures and stereotypes have also plagued them for centuries. Therefore, it is an honor to preserve and collect antique heirlooms that depict Black Victorians. Antique portrait lockets, mourning stick pins, and daguerreotypes are a few examples that include extraordinary images of Black Victorians.

(Portrait Collage of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Edwardians. Collage Includes Cabinet Card Photos, Real Photo Post Cards, and Convex Glass Portrait. From Personal Collection and Will Be Featured in Upcoming Book-Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors )
(Antique Victorian Era Mourning Portrait Stickpin In Memory of An Unidentified African American Woman. From Personal Collection and Will Be Featured In Upcoming Book, Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors.) 


To honor and uplift Black Victorians' legacies and celebrate American Archives Month, I will soon be releasing a portrait/historical reference book titled “Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors”. In addition, I am a co-contributor for Yale University's Small Nation Photographs: Allegories, Renditions, and A Small Nation of Women Exhibit at the Sarah G. Smith Gallery in Yale Divinity School (October 18th-January 28th). The exhibit will emphasize and showcase antiques connected to Black Victorians during the post-emancipation years. The displayed objects will include antique portraits, Victorian Era jewelry, and other rare heirlooms. I am also honored to be one of the guest presenters at the 2021 Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Virtual Conference on October 16th. My topic, “Protecting African American Heirlooms and Antiques,” will be both engaging and educational. The presentation will emphasize the proper preservation efforts and historical significance of rare African American antiques. It is always rather refreshing and extraordinary to come across antique original portraits of Black Victorians in the antique industry. My upcoming book project, AAHGS virtual conference, and the Yale University Small Nation Photographs exhibit are all intricately connected to October’s American Archive Month.  

(Official Cover For My Upcoming Book, Unsung Portraits: Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors. The Book Features An Extensive Collection of Daguerreotypes, Cabinet Cards, RPPC's, Jewelry Portrait Accessories, Convex Glass photos, and More From My Collection. The Book Will Also Include Historical Reference Commentary and Information For Educational Purposes. Release Date Soon To Be Announced)

(For the 2021 Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Virtual Conference, I Am Honored to Present an Informative and Educational Presentation titled 'Protecting African American Heirlooms and Antiques' on October 16th. The Presentation Will Include Advice and Helpful Knowledge On the Proper Preservation of Antique Photos and Jewelry Connected to Black Victorians. The Presentation Will Also Include The History and Different Types of Antique Photography.) 

(Yale University's Small Nation Photographs Exhibit Will Emphasize Historically Significant Antiques Connected to Black Victorians. The Exhibit's Theme Includes The Identity Formation and Post-Emancipation Values of Black Victorians. The Objects On Display Includes Antique Original Portraits, Accessories, and More That Feature Black Victorians. Exhibit Is October 18th-January 28th, 2022, at Sarah G. Smith Gallery-Yale Divinity School) 


 Although October is reserved for American Archives Month, historic preservation should be emphasized routinely. In my world, preserving precious heirlooms that our ancestors left behind is vital and historically significant. I adore and cherish my family/ancestral archive, and I also care for others. I am excited and honored to be a part of excellent preservation work and events celebrating antique archival objects from the past. Our ancestors left their insightful items behind, and we must continue to preserve their memories and stories accurately. Historic preservation is significant to study history intricately connected to the present and future. 

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