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Smithsonian Acquires Rare Antique Portraits From First Black Photographers

NPR: “Larry West was looking for a hobby that would combine visual arts and American history. And he found it in 1975 at an antique store in Mamaroneck, N.Y. At that time, boxes of daguerreotypes — the first commercially successful photographic process, invented around 1839 — would just be sitting there, West says. So he bought one “that happened to be [of] an African American,” he tells Weekend Edition. “And I was fascinated.” That purchase embarked a 45-year hobby and passion, with West collecting antique photographs from some of the early African American photographers, including James P. Ball, Glenalvin Goodridge and Augustus Washington…Now, his collection of 286 objects dating from the 1840s to about 1925, which includes daguerreotypes and other early types of photographic works, has been sold to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Stephanie Stebich, the museum’s director, calls it “a transformative collection for us.” The museum had to compete with other top institutions to acquire it…”

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