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For a long time America ignored the historical contributions of African Americans. And while there may be more inclusion these days, many still complain it’s not enough. But now a new program by the Smithsonian is teaching people how to preserve their own cultural artifacts, which have value to society and, quite frankly, monetary value.

This is a major effort to preserve Black history (which technically is part of American history) within the Black community. Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is hosting a series of workshops nationwide to help identify and protect items of cultural significance, reports NPR.

Recently a workshop was held at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama where experts examined family keepsakes brought in by locals. Among them a wide range of items, including aging quilts, old letters and black-and-white photos, newspaper clippings, and more. The museum’s workshop aims to educate people about how to take care of their own history. Attendees were given helpful tips, such as using archive-quality polyester sleeves to protect the fragile papers instead of storing them in a Zip-Lock bag.

And, some of the artifacts may become part of the collection at the African-American museum, which is being constructed on the National Mall in Washington and slated to open in 2015. The Birmingham stop produced a number of interesting times, such as what’s believed to be the personal scrapbook of Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

African Americans are also being encouraged to write down the story behind their various artifacts, thus the history belinging the items will be recorded and passed down from one generation to another.

Does your family have any cultural heirlooms?

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