June 24, 2016

The Washington Post thinks it might have one solution to a recurring problem for major news organizations: How can you take a local story (a museum exhibit opening, say) and make it relevant to a national audience?

On Sept. 24, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Inside, visitors will find exhibitions and collections of objects, images and art that begin with slavery in the United States and span the the Civil Rights movement.

Every day leading up to that opening, The Washington Post is collecting objects of “lived Black history” to display. On Wednesday, the Post launched “Historically Black” on Tumblr. From the intro:

Objects hold history. They’re evocative of stories stamped in time. When it opens this September, the African-American Museum of History and Culture will display thousands of objects — and their stories — that have shaped African-American history.

We want this Tumblr to be a people’s museum of the objects that have shaped your and your family’s own history. Send a photo of an object and tell us the story behind it. Think of the stories connected to a family photo, the backpack of a child who went to a segregated school, the title to someone’s first home, a wedding ring. We want to know what objects are meaningful to you, and what they tell you about black lives in America.

The Post has the dual missions of being local and national, said Veronica Toney, a digital editor at The Washington Post. And while the opening of the museum will be big news, the Tumblr offers a space to let everyone participate and share in the experience.

Julia Carpenter, an embedded social media editor at The Washington Post, concurred. “Creating that feeling virtually was huge for us,” she said.

Related: The Washington Post dug into the archives for stories about and by women

The Post has focused storytelling on Tumblr before, including “Before They Ran,” which pulls archive photos of political candidates, and “This Year I Learned,” a voicemail project that collects life lessons at the close of each year.

Related: How The New York Times is using unpublished images from the archives to tell stories it missed the first time

This is the first Tumblr that the Post has created with the intention of working with a community for submissions. It’s also the first Tumblr from the Post that plugs into an already existing community on Tumblr. After verifying images and stories, they’ll turn them into pieces for the Post.

So far, the objects in the Tumblr museum include photos, art and a pair of wedding rings. Angela Barnes wrote about the rings with her submission.


This project is for everyone, Toney said. Objects and images don’t just have to come from people of color, but from anyone who can share how Black history has touched them. One example, she said, comes from the Post’s Anne Midgette.


Here’s how you can submit your own image to “Historically Black.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misattributed a quote to Carpenter. We apologize for the error.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

More News

Back to News