“Re-Discovering America: Family Treasures from the Kinsey Collection” Opens Today at Epcot

Posted by Andrea Shockling on Friday, March 8th, 2013


Starting today, visitors to Epcot at Disney World in Orlando will be able to visit a brand new exhibit in the American Adventure pavilion. The Kinsey Collection, collected by and named for Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, celebrates 400 years of African American cultural history. While the collection has been on display before, including at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the exhibit at Epcot features brand new interactive components designed by Walt Disney Imagineering.


The Kinseys began collecting art and artifacts when their son Khalil was working on a grade school family tree project. “We could only go back a few generations. I remember that part distinctly because a lot of my friends and classmates could go back a lot further,” says Kahlil, who now manages the collection as part of the Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Foundation for the Arts and Education. “It kind of left me, as a kid, wondering what was going on.” They first purchased art and later added rare documents and books to their collection over the years. It was displayed privately in their home in California until 2005, when an article in the LA Times brought the attention of the California African American Museum, where the collection went on public display for the first time.

The Kinseys’ goal with the collection is to tell the often untold story of African American achievement and contribution. Much of the art and artifacts showcases less famous – or nonfamous – names in African American history. Bernard Kinsey said, “What has sustained the Kinsey collections over these last seven years, is not just having books and manuscripts and two- and three-dimensional objects. … It’s really the story of unearthing these remarkable people that nobody knows about.”


Bringing the Kinsey Collection to Epcot meant giving the experience that special Disney touch, and the Kinseys worked with the Walt Disney Imagineering team to add a new level of design and interactivity to the exhibit. WDI created a series of interactive display screens as well as a brand new graphic design motif for the collection. Even more exciting are the interactive lanterns placed throughout the exhibit to further the storytelling that is so important to both Disney and the Kinseys. These components may help the exhibition appeal to the younger audiences at Disney who might not immediately click with the material previously presented in more formal venues. We hope there is a way to incorporate them into future installations of the Kinsey Collection at other museums.


Inside the lanterns are short animations showcasing photos and text to supplement the art on display. “Whenever you touch the lanterns, it gives you a little bit more in-depth story, some inspirational stories,” says Jason Roberts, a producer with Walt Disney Imagineering. “You’ll see some imagery inside the lanterns along with a voice-over that touches on one of the themes.” And not just any voice over. The guest-activated lanterns feature narration by Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg, Diane Sawyer, James Pickens, Jr., Kerry Washington and others. For a sneak peek at the exhibit design by WDI, check out the video below.

The Kinsey Collection at Epcot brings a rotating exhibit of 40 artifacts and art pieces to the public in a brand new way with the new interactive components by Walt Disney Imagineering. We don’t know if those additions will be part of the exhibition moving forward, but not doing so seems like a missed opportunity to make this important collection of African American history accessible to a new generation.

Image sources: disney.com, orlandosentinel.com, wesh.com, disneyparks.disney.go.com


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