Every picture is a winner

We had a remarkable response to our contest to help the museum select photos for its display celebrating the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The two blog posts (Part 1, Part 2) describing the contest were read almost 6,500 times and 1,000 votes were cast. We all very much appreciate your help and support; we are especially grateful to the many who contributed comments along with their votes.

Two photos, side by side, of wedding parties. On the left, the group poses outside in the grass. On the right, the group poses inside with large bouquets.

Many suggested that we find a way to use all the photos, as they were all lovely and illustrative and it was hard to make a choice. We know the feeling: the museum has such a wealth of resources documenting African American life—over 200,000 photos in the Scurlock Collection alone—that we experienced all those same difficulties in making the hard choices when narrowing the selection down to the 12 photos you saw.

Two black-and-white photos of anniversary celebrations

So, with the brilliant help of the exhibit team, we found a way to use them all: the favorites as selected by the public will be enlarged, as free-standing images in the display, and the rest will be presented in "snapshot" size on the labels.

Draft design graphic showing a view down a hallway. On all three walls visible, black and white photos reproduced in large size. Gray walls and carpet.

The labels will also capture some of the comments we received. We are still sorting through those, as the display is still in the development process. We hope to give you a better idea of how that works as we move forward, so please stay tuned to this blog. In the meantime, here's a taste of what people told us about the photos and their choices:

"Loved both images and it was very hard to decide since participating in a cotillion was another highlight for young women in black communities," wrote Marion Coleman of Castro Valley, California. 

In a hand-tinted black-and-white photo, two children stand side-by-side as part of a wedding party.

"If you look closely at wedding photo #2 you'd swear Blue Ivy [daughter of celebrities Beyoncé and Jay Z] traveled through time. Also, all these special moments make [me] excited about my own impending nuptials on May 29th with anniversaries and family religious ceremonies to follow. Love this theme."

Two black-and-white photos showing groups of people at parties
"Images of our family's legacy of struggles, celebrations, picking cotton, owning land, family reunions, births, and deaths arose as I viewed these photos," wrote Diane Wells Rivers of Omaha, Nebraska. "I am proud to have a rich oral tradition which is enhanced by powerful images of our ancestors."

Detail of image. Chaperones and young women stand in line. One chaperone looks intently at the camera with a partial smile.

"In the first 'coming of age' photo the young woman on the right in the second row is looking very intently at the photographer. There's something about her face that intrigues me. She seems like a person who is able to put aside the setting and ask questions. About what? I don't know. But I would dearly love to know what she made of the life ahead of her."

Two black-and-white photos of religious ceremonies. On left, a baptism. On right, perhaps a first communion.

Two black-and-white photos of birthday parties attended by children.

Two black-and-white photos of graduations.

"I love these photos because they exemplify the rich heritage of and diversity in the African American community."

We look forward to sharing other updates with you as we work on Celebrating Our Memories, Celebrating Our Lives: Snapshots of African American Communities. The display opens on September 9, 2016.

Bob Horton is chair of the Archives Center