© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum event gathers memories

artist rendering of what SAAACAM's museum will look like
Courtesy photo
An artist rendering of the museum.

The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) held an event last Saturday with visitors from the Smithsonian Museum to help people gather their pictures and memorabilia. They also explained how best to archive them.

SAACAM’s Jeff May said that while pictures stuck away in some box may just seem like filler in a closet, they may contain fascinating clues about the past.

“Number one, that the artifacts and things that they have in their possession are history. They do tell a story. [Also, we explain] how to preserve those things, how to care for those things, who cares for those things,” May added.

Officials from the Smithsonian Museum were here to help those who came understand best practices of archiving.

“It was beautiful to have the Smithsonian come down and show our community how to work with organizations like SAACAM in how to preserve, collect, and share their own history and preserve it right, and to be able to show it to the rest of the world and elevate it in a way that's that it's due,” he said.

attendees at last Saturday's gathering
Courtesy photo
The event taught participants how to become their own archivists.

Family archives can be difficult to navigate for any family but May said it’s automatically more difficult for Black Americans.

“African Americans have a very tough time in researching their history and their roots because they were uprooted," he said. "Their lineage is certainly convoluted through the horrors and travails of slavery.”

Census records from the 1800s often identified slaves generically and not through their names.

“It's very difficult for African Americans to in large part, readily find, ‘okay, here's my origin. Here's where it started,’ because, even throughout the years and centuries, record keeping has not been taught.”

The Juneteenth project was held to gather photos, memorabilia and the stories that make up Black San Antonians’ histories. SAACAM is also looking to build its future in the form of a physical museum in the historic Kress Building on Houston Street downtown.

“We're in the midst of some renovations; those renovations will be completed in 2026. With all roads leading to a grand opening in June of 2026,” May said. “Our hope is that when the community comes into that new space, they will see the artifacts, the stories, the materials, right that they cherish for so long, elevated in that space, in such a respectful and dignified way.”

He said the museum will play a role not just in documenting Black South Texans’ contributions to the state's culture, but it will also help define those contributions to the wider culture.

“It does much more than highlight stories," May said. "It gives a voice to people that at one point were silent.”

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii