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Smithsonian curators scout for Obama artifacts

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 22, 2013 at 7:55 a.m.

— As crowds descended and the inauguration unfolded, a few museum curators in Washington kept watch for symbols and messages that would make history.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will open during President Barack Obama’s second term, and one section will feature a large display about the first black president.

Curators have been working since 2008 to gather objects, documents and images that capture his place in history.

Curator William Pretzer ventured into the crowd Monday, mostly looking for memorabilia that had a personal touch — beyond the T-shirts and buttons hawked by vendors. Pretzer was most interested in handmade items, but he didn’t find much.

“There’s so much commercially produced stuff that people don’t go to the trouble anymore,” he said. “It’s the personal expression, as opposed to the commercial” that the museum most wants to display.

The museum has amassed more than 300 Obama-related items, including furniture from a 2008 campaign office in northern Virginia and a cloth banner from Tanzania with an Obama portrait and message reading “Congratulations Barack Obama.”

When the museum opens in 2015 near the Washington Monument, one floor will be devoted to a chronology of black history, from 16th-century slavery through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the civil-rights era and beyond. The timeline will end with Obama and the 2008 election as a symbolic moment.

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