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Elizabeth Meaders' vast collection of 20,000 artifacts documenting the African-American experience going up for auction

Woman hopes to sell 20,000 items documenting African-American experience as one collection 02:35

NEW YORK -- Thousands of personal artifacts documenting the African-American experience are headed to the auction block. 

They all belong to a former Staten Island teacher who has spent her life collecting what some call the most comprehensive collection. 

As CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports, at 90, Elizabeth Meaders says she's ready for her beloved pieces to find a new home. 

"I have 14 museums in my house," Meaders said. 

The moment you step into her modest Staten Island home, you're immediately enveloped by history spanning the African American experience

"This is a picture of slaves being branded," she explained. 

That's just what you see on the way to the kitchen. Each room represents a different era, or theme. 

"This is a bronze statue of Joe Lewis and these are Mohammad Ali's shoes," she said. 

They are artifacts Meaders has collected for more than 60 years. She has an estimated 20,000 pieces in all. 

"Everywhere, everyday Black history is being made," Meaders said. "So it's up to us to embrace it, and respect it, and promote it."

A passion turned obsession to document untold stories. 

But now, at 90, Meaders is finally ready to put her entire collection on the auction block

"$2 million for a baseball card. $5 million for Marilyn Monroe's dress. What is the value of the story of a people? That's the question that this collection is trying to answer," Meaders said. 

Meaders amassed the authentic pieces on a teacher's salary, often mortgaging her home to acquire them. 

"There's never been an auction of a large collection being sold as a collection like this," said Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey's Auction House. 

Guernsey's is hosting the auction and hopes the new buyer keeps the collection intact, and in New York City. 

"Hey, Mayor Adams, come on. New York City, with all its greatness does not have a full blown African American Museum, and you've got one sitting here on Staten Island," Ettinger said. 

"Have you thought about the day where you come in here and it's empty?" Cline-Thomas asked. 

"Well, I'll just send it on its way with a blessing and a prayer," Meaders said. 

A prayer, Meaders says, to teach and heal. A lifelong labor of love now presented as an offering to future generations. 

Meaders says she would love nothing more than to see her collection on display. In addition to a new African American museum, her wish list includes Barack Obama's presidential library. 

The bidding starts at $1 million. 

The auction is being held on March 15 at 2 p.m. The buyer will acquire the collection as a whole -- all 20,000 pieces. 

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