Smithsonian Photographs Travel to the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center

September 16, 2007

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is proud to announce a special collaboration between the Museum’s Archives Center and the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center in Highland Beach, Md., for a display of its Scurlock Studio photographs. The photographs will be featured in the exhibition “Scurlock-Beach Connections,” which will open Wednesday, Aug. 15. The display highlights digital prints made from original negatives in the Scurlock Studio Records. 

Theodore Hudson, an Archives Center volunteer and former professor at Howard University, is the curator of the exhibition, and David Haberstich, the Archives Center’s curator of photography, served as a consultant to prepare and install the display in the summer home of Frederick Douglass. During segregation, Highland Beach was an important African American community and summer retreat.

The exhibition features more than 30 photographs selected by Hudson based on his personal knowledge and research to illustrate connections between Washington, D.C., and Highland Beach, Md., especially through Washingtonians who had summer homes at the resort. The exhibition was made possible in part with funds from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, an instrumentality of the state of Maryland.

The Scurlock photographic studio was an important fixture in the African American community of Washington from 1911 to 1994. In 1911 Addison N. Scurlock founded a studio and his sons, Robert and George Scurlock, served as apprentices with him to learn the business. Addison Scurlock died in 1964 and his sons ran the business until it closed in 1994 when Robert Scurlock died. Known as one of the most renowned African American photographers, Addison N. Scurlock not only documented the community, Howard University and African American interactions with the federal government, but he also photographed famous African American entertainers, such as Duke Ellington and prominent leaders, such as the diplomat Ralph Bunche. In 1948, Robert and George Scurlock managed the Capital School of Photography. Among their students was a young Jacqueline Bouvier. In 1952, Robert Scurlock opened Custom Craft, the first color processing laboratory for professional photographers in Washington.

The National Museum of American History acquired the Scurlock Studio archive from Robert Scurlock’s heirs Vivan and George Scurlock. An estimated 200,000 photographs, including approximately 150,000 original negatives, are in the Archives Center’s collection. Photographic equipment, studio furniture and other artifacts are in the museum’s photographic history collection.

The Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center is housed in “Twin Oaks,” the summer cottage built for Frederick Douglass in 1895. The museum is located in the Town of Highland Beach Md., which was founded in 1893 by Charles Douglass, Frederick’s youngest son. In 1922, Highland Beach was incorporated as a municipality, becoming the first black township in the state of Maryland. The museum aims to promote a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the life and work of Frederick Douglass and his family, to identify, document and preserve the social histories of Highland Beach and Venice Beach and to make those resources available to the public for information and research. Except for announced public events, the museum is open to individuals and groups only by appointment, which can be requested by contacting the museum at 3200 Wayman Ave., Highland Beach, Md. 21403, by phone at (410) 267-6960 and by fax at (410) 267-0091.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the Museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The Museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in summer 2008. For information about the Museum, please visit http://americanhistory.si.edu or call Smithsonian Information at (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).