Photographic Collections at the Alexandria Black History Museum
The Museum’s collection includes historic photographs including examples by Elrich Murphy, an African American photographer who worked in Alexandria during the 1940s and 50s. It also contains two collections documenting aspects of African American daily life in the late twentieth century. Carol Siegel’s Spirit of the Neighborhood collection explores Alexandria’s African American neighborhoods in the late 1980s, and Nina Tisara’s United in the Spirit, is an examination of worship in Alexandria’s African American churches. Other collections, such as the Parker-Gray Archive and the Moss Kendrix Collection, also contain significant photographic collections.
See more collections from the Alexandria Black History Museum
Carol G. Siegel: The Spirit of a Neighborhood Revisited
The Spirit of a Neighborhood Revisited: The Parker-Gray Community, 1985 -1986
Photographs by Carol G. Siegel. (2012).
Originally shown at the Alexandria Black History Museum in 1989, The Spirit of a Neighborhood was the first exhibition to open in the museum after it became part of the City of Alexandria. The exhibition highlights people and places in Alexandria’s Historic Parker-Gray District. In the 23 years since the photographs were first shown, many changes have occurred in the community - children depicted are now adults, some adult subjects have passed away, and many old homes and buildings were lost to development and gentrification. Thus revisiting this collection of photographs in the 21st century allows us to comment on the change in the community as well as appreciate the continuities. In 1986, Ms. Siegel wrote:
…in this small community, my presence with a camera was quite apparent. Yet it was obvious as Metro came and redevelopment started, that if I didn’t begin to document the area, it would soon be too late to capture what was there… At first, the camera was an intrusion, but as I began to bring photos back, my photographing became accepted, and the camera became an entrée, helping me overcome my initial hesitancy… Undoubtedly, the neighborhood is being gentrified, but within its diverse population a solid group of black citizens remain who have deep roots here and who care about each other and their community.
Read an transcription of a 2023 oral history interview with Carol Siegel .
Nina Tisara: United in the Spirit...
United in the Spirit: Photographs of Worship in Alexandria's African American Churches
Photographs by Nina Tisara (2011)
United in the Spirit: Photographs of Worship in Alexandria's African American Churches, black and white photographs by Nina Tisara, was first exhibited at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center (now the Alexandria Black History Museum) in 1995, the result of more than a year's work, the photographs portray people in 15 congregations in Alexandria engaged in prayer and song and as participants in baptisms, communions, Bible study, Sunday school and commemorative services.
Nina Tisara has become known to Alexandrians for her sensitive and artistic photographic work. Since her beginnings as as a freelance photojournalist she has had a number of one-woman shows and received many awards including three “Alex Awards” and the 1989 Woman to Woman Award for outstanding achievement in cultural affairs and the arts. In 1990, she opened Tisara Photography on King Street. Tisara is now project director of Living Legends of Alexandria, an on-going, not-for-profit project to identify, honor, and chronicle the people making history in Alexandria today.
Asked in 2011 about her feelings on exhibiting the work again after 15 years, Tisara said the photo documentary studies of worship in Alexandria were among the most meaningful and interesting projects of her career. “It is fascinating to revisit those faces and scenes. As an artist, I am always somewhat sad when an exhibition comes down and the images are relegated to a shelf or closet. It is gratifying to have them shown again, especially now that there a patina of history about them.”