In September, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum celebrates 55 years of serving the D.C. region. Founded in 1967 by the Smithsonian to serve the African American community, the museum has grown to become a worldwide model of a community-based museum. Since its inception, the museum has focused on sharing the stories of those furthest from justice and serving as a space that not only explores inequalities but encourages its visitors to find solutions. As we look to the next 55 years, the museum will build upon its rich tradition of amplifying the voices of overlooked communities while exploring new methods of community engagement.

As I have written before, the pandemic has been hard on almost everyone. From loss of life to loss of employment, to a general feeling of uncertainty. As a museum located East of the River, it was important for us to figure out how we could best serve the community, even with our doors closed. The pandemic forced us to think outside of our four walls and into the community. The museum installed its first outdoor exhibit, Men of Change: Taking it to the Streets in the Deanwood community. This exhibit explored the many facets of African American manhood and how they are juxtaposed with how African American men are presented in the media.

Melanie Adams

As we look towards 2023, the museum is spending the year focused on environmental justice. The year will include a new exhibit focused on women’s environmental history and the launch of the Center for Environmental Justice. The museum has always addressed issues of environmental concern for communities of color starting with the exhibit, The Rat: Man’s Invited Infliction. In 2023, we will build upon our work by showcasing the women of color who have been working at the grassroots level to make change so all people, regardless of their race, can live, work, and play in a clean and healthy environment.

The museum is excited to be back open to the public seven days a week and is looking to the future. As we enter our 56th year serving the greater D.C. region, we have a new brand, new exhibits, and new programs planned to help re-introduce the museum and build upon our mission to amplify the voices of those furthest from justice.

To celebrate the museum’s anniversary and our future, I invite everyone to Portraits By The People on Thursday, September 15th from 6-8:30 p.m. The event will include the debut of the museum’s new outdoor projection system with pictures by and of community members. There will be live screen printing, featuring limited edition designs by local company Soul & Ink, as well as tours of the award-winning exhibition Food for the People: Eating & Activism in Greater Washington (which closes September 17). For more information about the museum and our offerings, please visit our website at anacostia.si.edu.

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