2020 was a hard year for many cultural organizations. In March, we had to quickly figure out how to work from home during a health pandemic that was both a new and frightening experience for many. In May, we saw the continued violence against African American men with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Both events created a dual pandemic that continues to impact the country as we figure out what is the new normal.

Even though we were closed during most of 2020, the museum continued to find ways to live out its mission to collect and share community stories. A couple of months after closing, we created an online opportunity for people to share how they were being resilientduring the time of COVID. After the killing of George Floyd, people were invited to share ways they were lifting their voices to call for racial equality and an end to racism.

As the pandemic wore on and the museum remained closed, we wanted to get back into the community in a COVIDsafe manner, so we reimagined an exhibit that was scheduled to be inside the museum, to be placed outside. Men of Change:  Taking it to the Streets was not the first time we placed an exhibit outside of our museum walls, but it was the first time we placed it outdoors. This exhibit was a great example of the community (in this case Deanwood) coming together to host this exhibit and work with museum staff to share their stories. This exhibit is located on the campuses of the Deanwood recreation center, library, and the Ron Brown High School and closes on Aug. 31, 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a light on many issues including access to food in many communities of color. The museum opened its second outdoor exhibit, Food for the People: Eating and Activism in Greater Washington in April 2021 on our outdoor plaza to help visitors understand the issues of food access in the DMV region by highlighting the people and organizations working daily to eliminate the inequality. Visitors not only learn about the issues, but the exhibit also provides suggestions for how to use this knowledge to make positive changes in their communities. In addition to the outdoor exhibit, the museum partnered with Feed the Fridge to provide free meals (Monday – Friday) in a refrigerator located in the museum’s parking lot.

After being closed for almost 17 months, the Anacostia Community Museum staff are excited to welcome visitors back inside the museum. While we have enjoyed connecting with people through our online programs and outside exhibits, we missed the connectioncreated by personal interactions. When the museum opens back up, visitors will be able to view new content and learn more about issues of food history, culture and justice in the DMV through the continuation of the exhibit, Food for the People: Eating and Activism in Greater Washington into our main gallery. We will continue to host virtual programs through the end of the year, and I encourage you to check out our website (anacostia.si.edu) for up-to-date program information.  

As the country continues to move into a new normal, the Anacostia Community Museum remains committed to its mission and vision to use the power of community stories to create a more equitable future for all. This unprecedented period showed us how we as a museum could not only be resilient but find ways to use our resources to be relevant and respond to the needs of our community. We look forward to opening our doors and welcoming you back inside the museum beginning Friday, Aug. 6. Please do visit us as anacostia.si.edu to learn about our new days, hours, exhibitions and programming.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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