Smithsonian expands Selena collection with new acquisitions from Texas photographer

In commemoration of would have been the iconic Texas artist’s 50th birthday, the Smithsonian is expanding its Selena collection with photos of the late singer performing in concert and interacting with fans, as well as some previously unreleased advertising images — all taken by a San Antonio photographer.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has acquired 18 images of beloved Tejana star Selena Quintanilla-Perez photographed by San Antonio-based photographer Al Rendon, which will become part of the museum’s Photographic History Collection and join the photographer’s other Selena images, donated in 2015.

The museum has also released an educational video highlighting items from the Smithsonian’s Selena collection, which includes one of the singer’s performance costumes donated by her family in 1998.

Additionally, the Smithsonian will publish some digital resources in an effort to honor and help audiences learn more about Selena’s legacy. They include the last installment of the museum’s “Latinas Talk Latinas” video series, which was filmed this spring in Texas and Washington, D.C. Accompanying the video will be an educational learning lab featuring the queen of Tejano music, and the Smithsonian plans to publish several Selena-related blog posts and more social media content.

Selena’s music became wildly popular across U.S. and international markets in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the Grammy Award winner performing before massive crowds and gaining further fame before her untimely death in 1995. These many years later, her music and story remain ingrained in the heart and history of the Lone Star State that was Selena’s home.

“Selena’s music continues to animate family barbecues and celebrations such as quinceaneras, as her music and story continue to inspire, resonate, and connect across generations and communities,” says Veronica A. Mendez, curator at the museum, in a release about the new Selena acquisitions. “Almost 30 years after her tragic death, she remains one of the most influential Latina artists of both the 20th and 21st centuries, with a growing fan base introduced to Selena by the 1997 namesake movie starring Jennifer Lopez, one of the bestselling cosmetics celebrity collaborations in 2016, and the recent 2020 Netflix series.”

The newly gained photos join other Selena artifacts in the museum’s American Enterprise exhibition, including the immediately recognizable black leather jacket and bustier Selena performed in during the early 1990s — and is wearing in some of the newly acquired photographs. That exhibition also includes photo transparencies taken by Rendon, some of them previously unreleased, during a Coca-Cola photo session.

A separate donation to the museum from Univision, the parent company of San Antonio’s KWEX-TV, includes a rare video interview with Selena on the program “Tejano USA” from 1994 that the Smithsonian notes has been viewed nearly 4 million times.

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