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Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum: Visit the Library Without Leaving Home

Did you know? The Anacostia Community Museum has its own library! A not-so-well-known fact is that every Smithsonian Museum has a library. Each library is a hidden gem, used primarily by the museum staff. Did you ever wonder how we create such amazing museum exhibitions? It all begins with research and planning inside the museum’s library. And we also provide services to our local community. There are 1,500 online records of photographs, paintings, drawings, posters, and quilts representing the art, culture and history of the Anacostia community. We also house 635 books about the city of Washington D.C. including the history of African Americans here.

The Library is normally open to the community, by appointment, although we are closed due to the pandemic. We have welcomed visitors of all ages and hosted college students, community activists, gardeners, educators, parents and children. While you are waiting for us to reopen, please feel free to enjoy our online books collection and some of our digitized collections from the comfort of your own home. The Anacostia Community Museum Library collection (https://anacostia.si.edu/collection/library) covers a wide range of topics, but we focus primarily on community museology, urban ecology, and the study of cities, with an emphasis on Washington D.C. (Washingtoniana materials). We are a national resource for information about the community.

"Frederick Douglass the Orator," written by James Monroe Gregory, Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum library collection
“Frederick Douglass the Orator,” written by James Monroe Gregory, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum library collection

Established in 1991, 24 years after the museum (1967), the Anacostia Community Museum Library contains a robust Frederick Douglass collection, which complements the museum’s object collection. Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (1818-1895) was the “Lion of Anacostia.” His home is now a National Historic Site. The Frederick Douglass National Historic Home is walking distance, a few blocks away, from the Anacostia Community Museum Library. Frederick Douglass lived right here in Anacostia for the final 14 years of his life; he died of a heart attack at age 77. The Library has 117 books about, by, or related to, Frederick Douglass, and houses more Frederick Douglass books than any other Smithsonian Library.

A book I would like to highlight from our library collections is “Frederick Douglass The Orator” by James Monroe Gregory. The book is authored by Howard University Professor and Dean, James Monroe Gregory (1849-1915). Gregory was valedictorian of Howard University’s first graduating class in 1872 and an intimate and trusted friend of Frederick Douglass. Gregory moved to Washington, D.C., five years before Douglass moved to Washington, D.C. He died at age 66, but his life overlapped 46 years of Frederick Douglass’.

"The Anacostia Story," written by Louise Daniel Hutchinson,  Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum library collection
“The Anacostia Story,” written by Louise Daniel Hutchinson,  Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum library collection

Another favorite focusing on the Anacostia community is “The Anacostia Story,” a masterpiece written by Louise Daniel Hutchinson (1928-2014), who was the first historian of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum.

You can also visit the Smithsonian Archives without even leaving your neighborhood at https://sova.si.edu. There you can access 24,976 descriptions of photographs, oral histories, films, and works of art. We have compiled a list of free databases, collections and search tools, selected by Smithsonian Libraries staff, that are freely available via the Internet. We also have community information about COVID-19, on a webpage.

All this information is available to families, students and researchers from home! You can download, share, reuse, and remix millions of Smithsonian images — right now, for free from Smithsonian Open Access. Access nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections — with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, 21 libraries, numerous archives, and the National Zoo.

The Anacostia Community Museum Library’s email address is ACMLibrary@si.edu through which we can be reached if you have questions. We are the only Smithsonian Library located inside of a residential neighborhood and the only Smithsonian Library with free public parking. We hope you will schedule an appointment and come visit us, once we are open again.

In the meanwhile, do visit us online at https://anacostia.si.edu.

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