Three lithographs from the Wells Fargo collection soon will have a new home — at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, currently under construction in Washington, D.C. The lithographs are by Grafton Tyler Brown, the first African American artist, lithographer, and cartographer to create works depicting the Pacific Northwest and California, and are dated between 1867 and 1879. They include two mining stock certificates and a letterhead created for companies as part of his San Francisco lithography business. Wells Fargo, which opened its first office in San Francisco in 1852 and still is headquartered there, is donating the documents to complement a painting by Brown already in the art museum’s possession. The company has also donated $1 million to the museum.
“We are proud to support the museum and honored to contribute to its collection,” says Lisa Frison, African American marketing segment leader at Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo’s support for the museum comes as it curates its collection and exhibits in preparation for opening day in 2016. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the Smithsonian’s 19th museum. Its collection so far includes more than 40,000 objects covering major periods of African American history.
“As one of the founding donors to our museum, Wells Fargo has provided invaluable support to help us create a museum like no other in the world,” says Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the museum. “The documents are coming into a collection that will help us tell the African American story in a rich and compelling way, reaching millions of visitors through exhibitions, interactive platforms, and the website.”
The three lithographs being donated previously were housed in the Wells Fargo History Museum collection, which showcases the company’s shared history with communities in a network of 11 museums across the U.S. (Note: A 12th museum is planned for 2016, in Des Moines.) All museums feature documents, photographs, artifacts, art, and educational programs.
“The donation and our financial pledge are part of Wells Fargo’s ongoing commitment to sharing the stories and experiences of African Americans,” says Lisa. “African American history is American history. We feel deeply honored to support the Smithsonian in bringing the African American story, with its rich culture and experiences, to life in such a significant way.”
Wells Fargo joins peers in the financial services industry in support for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, including Bank of America, American Express, and others.
Wells Fargo launched The Untold Stories Collection, which includes “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect” and #MyUntoldSM, to promote dialogue around the experiences and contributions of African Americans to American history and culture.
The company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion dates back more than 160 years. In 1888, an instruction booklet distributed to Wells Fargo agents that noted, “Proper respect must be shown to all — let them be men, women, or children, rich or poor, white or black.”
Through its ongoing support for The Untold Stories Collection and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lisa says the company is working to highlight stories that add to the fabric of the African American experience and the broader American experience in an authentic and meaningful way.