- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

William Jefferson III smiled when he learned that a framed diploma from Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was worth anywhere from $750 to $1,000.
His smile turned to a full-fledged grin when he heard a vintage black-and-white photograph of the Tuskegee football team from 1903 would fetch as much as $700.
Mr. Jefferson, 43, was one of hundreds who appeared at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum in Southeast yesterday with shopping carts, boxes and brown paper bags filled with family heirlooms for appraisers to examine what the heirs had found in their attics, dresser drawers, basements and closets.
The museum was putting on its version of the PBS "Antique Roadshow," a popular British TV program that examines people's family artifacts and puts a price tag on them. The Anacostia Museum called its version "Collections Discovery Day."
The event was scheduled with the museum's current exhibition, "Precious Memories: Collectors' Passion" which showcases the possesions of such Washington-area collectors as Jerome Gray, a collector of African-American art books, and Eugene and Adele Redd, who have amassed a collection of artifacts that document the American slave trade.
People began arriving in droves at the Anacostia Museum at 10 a.m., although the appraisals didn't begin until 1 p.m. By closing time at 5 p.m., 724 folks had filed through the glass doors.
Mr. Jefferson of Glen Dale, was amazed by the value of his diploma and said this appraisal could start him collecting other memorabilia.
"I'm not selling," Mr. Jefferson said immediately after talking with appraiser Philip J. Merrill, the owner of Nanny Jack & Co. Inc. in Baltimore. "This might start me on the path of collecting," he said.
Others waiting their turns had a chance to get helpful hints from a group of Smithsonian historians and preservation specialists.
Robert Greenfield, a native Washingtonian who now lives in Silver Spring, was one of the first to arrive. He wanted to have several family hierlooms appraised.
For example, his grandfather, who was both a carpenter and an artist and lived in Charles County in the 1800s, made a handcrafted chair that converts into a table.
"It's been in the family for a long time, and I have no intention of selling it," he said of the dark brown chair with ornate carvings. Calligraphy that embellishes the chair reads: "Rest-Ye and Thankful-Be."
Cardell Love, 44, and his wife, Adrienne, of Fort Washington waited patiently to speak with appraisers about her vintage jewelry and his family's hand-painted plate that depicts a young Thomas Jefferson and his wife.
Like William Jefferson III, this was the Loves' first experience with a professional appraiser.
"I plan on keeping this [plate] and passing it on to the next generation," Mr. Love said while waiting for his ticket number to be called.
Jim Hill, an avid collector of black art, brought in an eclectic mix for the professionals to examine. A retired microbiologist, he owns a Washington Senators baseball program autographed by President John F. Kennedy in the spring of 1963.
"I hope it's real, and I'm pretty sure that the autograph is real," Mr. Hill said.
He also brought in a painting by American artist Jessie Wilcox Smith, an illustrator from the "golden era" of American illustration.
"I recently found the painting at a bazaar in the District," Mr. Hill said with a twinkle in his eye. The 30-year collector said the Smithsonian-sponsored event is significant in many ways and more now than ever.
"Especially now that we are going to get an African-American Museum on the Mall," Mr. Hill said, "this will be a focal point of our culture and history. Collecting is important in that it verifies our presence and contributions made in the past, then and now."
Steven Newsome, Anacostia Museum director since 1991, smiled broadly as folks filed through the doors. "How do you reinvent the African-American Museum? How do you create a new paradigm for the African-American community?
"What you do is allow citizens to tell the African-American story from home to home, family to family, neighborhood to neighborhood," he said, smiling.


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