For over nine years, Wendel White has been venturing to countless museums throughout the U.S. to photograph historical black artifacts for his “Manifest” photo series.
From a lock of Frederick Douglass’ hair and FBI files on Malcolm X to a tambourine once played by Prince, White’s collection of nearly 100 photos allows for continual consumption of black history.
“[The title] ‘Manifest’ evokes the complicated notions of slavery as cargo or inventory and the notion that these objects are also a collection or reliquary of African-American experience and memory,” White, who currently resides in New Jersey, told The Huffington Post last week.
He said that historical black artifacts are often overlooked by most museums.
“My photographs are meant to describe and materialize the experience of encountering objects that have been traveling through time stored in cabinets, on shelves and in warehouses for centuries or just a few years,” White said.
“I am increasingly interested in the residual power of the past to inhabit these material remains,” he continued. “The ability of objects to transcend lives, centuries and millennia suggests a remarkable mechanism for folding time, bringing the past and the present into a shared space that is uniquely suited to artistic exploration.”
Wendel ― who’s been collecting for the “Manifest” series since 2008 ― finds his subjects through research and suggestions from friends. While some of his material is gathered from private archives, the majority of it comes from public collections.
“Manifest” was first exhibited at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and has since been on display at museums across the country. A number of the collection’s newer additions are from exhibits at the highly buzzed-about National Museum of African American History and Culture, including a piece of stained glass destroyed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama, which killed four young girls.
White said the remnant was “one of the most painful objects” he’s photographed.
Take a look at some of the most striking images from the “Manifest” portfolio below: