Folk artist Karen Collins in her workshop. Photo courtesy of the organization.

African American Miniature Museum

Material arts and storytelling

About the Organization

For more than 24 years, Compton-based folk artist Karen Collins, founder and Executive Director of the African American Miniature Museum, has been creating a pictoral view of black history through dioramas placed in shadowboxes. From the very beginning of the journey – the Middle Passage to America – up to Barack Obama and Kendrick Lamar, Karen’s miniatures bring clarity and vibrance in the telling of black history. The mobile museum began in the 1990s, when Karen took her work to schools, libraries, churches and community centers, as a way to bring both the many triumphs and the horrors of black history to a generation of children that sorely needed a sense of self and context. She has continued to work from her workshop at home alongside her husband who makes the wooden boxes she uses and has been exhibited at the Museum of Tolerance, the Madam Walker Legacy Center in Indianapolis, the Jazz Museum at Leimert Park, and in libraries and schools throughout the Los Angeles area, including the recent ‘21 Collections’ exhibit at the Los Angeles Central Library.

Living Cultures Grant


African American Miniature Museum: New Horizons in Technology

In 2021, the African American Miniature Museum received a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grant Program to develop a virtual museum tour, a stop motion video, and a coloring book for children, as well as to acquire artifacts to create new work for the video. The new works will allow the museum to adapt its programming, increase its outreach, and engage with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.


African American Miniature Museum Expansion

In 2020 the African American Miniature Museum received a Living Cultures Grant from ACTA to expand the museum’s collection by creating 15 new dioramas. These new creations will include the themes of Black Cowboys, African American towns in the West, Nicodemus settlers, as well as Black Wall Street also professionals, lawyers, Blacks in space, and tech giants. These new dioramas, when finished, will be presented to the Museum’s usual audience: children, teenagers, adults, and seniors at various public venues including schools, libraries, and museums.  The grant will also be used to purchase materials as well as conduct public outreach and further research.

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