Collecting Artifacts

Donating Your Personal or Family Records to a Repository

For years, music has told the story of American culture. Through song, our country has experienced many triumphs as well as tragedies — becoming the fabric of who we are as Americans. In particular the heritage, impact and creativity of African Americans has had such a significant impact on music. But the influence is part of a story never before told… until now.

The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) serves to educate the world, preserve the legacy, and celebrate the central role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack.

The National Museum of African American Music is the global destination, for music lovers of all generations, that inspires, educates, and transforms your appreciation of American music.

As NMAAM develops the soundtrack of American music, to be told through the experience of African Americans, artifacts and memorabilia will be acquired, documented, studied and interpreted for use in the Museum’s permanent exhibitions. Collections for NMAAM will reflect the culture of African Americans and the evolution of their musical history. This process will allow all object and document collections to compliment and support one another, in order to illustrate the stories of America’s musical past and present.

The Museum will collect in three categories:

  • Items that specifically relate to artists, musicians, etc.
  • Generic music objects
  • Objects to use as props and for education purposes

NMAAM’s collection efforts will provide artifacts, images and documents for the following exhibition galleries:

  • Roots of African American Music
  • Wade In The Water
  • A Love Supreme
  • Rivers of Rhythm
    (timeline, history and music highlights)
  • Crossroads
  • One Nation Under A Groove
    (Rhythm & Blues)
  • The Message

We are looking for items within specific genres that will supplement our designed galleries. Some items may be generic in nature; however, often times, people begin to think about items and discover hidden gems relating to specific artists, events or time periods.

What if your mother kept your grandfather’s cuff links in his treasured jewelry box, which happens to contain a white handkerchief that Louis Armstrong used when he played his trumpet? That type of ‘find’ would be a phenomenal addition to NMAAM’s efforts to tell the story of American culture through the music created, influenced or impacted by African Americans. If you wish to donate artifacts or have questions, please send an email to

Potential objects NMAAM would be interested in:


  • Drums
  • Lutes
  • Xylophone
  • Dance Wang
  • Mask

African American Artifacts (Pre-Civil War):

  • Drums
  • Banjo
  • Fiddle
  • Hip bone
  • Jugs
  • Tin tub
  • Kazoo
  • Daguerreotypes
  • Spoons
  • Diddley bow
  • Wash tub bass
  • Rub board

Spirituals (Post-Civil War):

  • Trumpet
  • Clarinet
  • Piano
  • Harmonica
  • Tuba
  • Trombone
  • Mutes, bottleneck
  • Play Bills
  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Keyboard
  • Turntable


  • Guitar
  • Sheet music
  • Choir robe
  • Programs
  • Record labels
  • Period newspapers
  • Original sheet music
  • Hymnal
  • Religious publications
  • Programs
  • Flyers
  • Video


  • Civil War items
  • Freedman’s Bureau document
  • Sharecropper’s labor contract
  • “Whites Only” sign
  • “Colored Only” sign
  • Hymnal
  • Sheet music
  • Motown, Stax, Decca
  • Juke Box
  • Minstrel flyer, program, poster
  • USO poster
  • WWI/WWI items
  • TOBA
  • Vaudeville
  • Sharecropper’s tools
  • Depression, WPA poster
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Chicago Defender newspaper
  • KKI materials
  • Great Mississippi Flood of 1927
  • Image of lynching
  • 708 Club program
  • Nashville’s “Night Train”
  • Grammys
  • Civil Rights materials
  • Electric guitar
  • Bass
  • Costumes


  • Trumpet
  • Saxophone
  • Drums
  • Bass/Electric guitar
  • Bandstand
  • Piano/Keyboard
  • Nightclub programs
  • Posters
  • House party flyers
  • Newspaper ads
  • Costumes
  • Club items

Rhythm & Blues:

  • Drums
  • Saxophone
  • Trumpet
  • Keyboard
  • Sheet music
  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • “Soul Train” Memorabilia
  • Segregation signs
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Billboard charts
  • Period dress
  • 45 records and covers


  • Drums
  • Turn table
  • LP records
  • Recording Systems
  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Artwork
  • Graffiti
  • Jewelry
  • Clothing
  • MP3

African American music is a lived experience where over 50 identified musical genres have risen out of the American experience. The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) will be the first entity to tell a comprehensive story about the impact African Americans have on American culture through music.

NMAAM’s permanent exhibitions will educate the public, especially young people about their musical heritage. It’s a story, never before told…until now. And cannot be told without your help!

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