- Explore History in Art
- Lesson Plans
- More Resources
About the Collaboration
The idea for Oh Freedom! began in 2007. As two educators from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (American Art) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), we discussed ways to reach beyond walls to more deeply integrate African American history and culture into classrooms across the United States. Our vision was for teachers from different disciplines to have access to the nation's most extensive art collections relating to the African American experience. We also wanted to provide a place for teachers to share lesson plans and resources and to help them make meaningful connections across content areas. With the full support of the museum directors, we teamed up to develop the concept for an educational website on American art and its intersections with African American history. We jointly applied for a grant in June 2007.
Although our grant was not funded, we were undeterred. Instead, we tightened the project focus to teach about the African American civil rights struggle, the movement's impact on American history, and its vital connections to artistic and cultural expression. Artworks from our two collections still formed the core of the project, but we amplified and deepened the themes by connecting these artworks to related objects and primary sources from across the Smithsonian. With a more streamlined concept, one of the museums provided seed money, and Oh Freedom! Teaching African American Civil Rights through American Art at the Smithsonian was born.
In a virtually unprecedented Smithsonian collaboration, in the fall of 2008, members of the education, curatorial, and new media departments of American Art and NMAAHC began to conceptualize Oh Freedom! Because of the complexity of working across two museums, a part-time project manager joined the team in March 2009. A Content Advisory Council helped guide the site's framework, artwork selection, and the interpretation of art and history. A Teacher Advisory Council consulted about the site's usability, provided feedback on activities, and developed lesson plans.
We hope the partnership that conceived and implemented Oh Freedom! inspires educators to go beyond traditional sources of information on civil rights, to engage the Smithsonian's resources in new ways, and to share practical teaching strategies across the curriculum.
Elizabeth K. Eder, Project Co-Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Esther J. Washington, Project Co-Director, National Museum of African American History and Culture