Anacostia Community Museum

Last updated
Anacostia Community Museum
Anacostia Community Museum logo.png
Anacosta Community Museum.jpg
Location map Washington, D.C. east.png
Red pog.svg
Location within Washington, D.C.
Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°51′25″N76°58′37″W / 38.856854°N 76.976888°W / 38.856854; -76.976888
Type Community museum
Visitors38,963 (2008) [1]
Director Melanie Adams
Public transit access WMATA Metro Logo.svg      Anacostia
Website Official website

The Anacostia Community Museum (known colloquially as the ACM) is a community museum in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in the United States. It is one of twenty museums under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution and was the first federally funded community museum in the United States. [2] The museum, founded in 1967, was created with the intention to bring aspects of the Smithsonian museums, located on the National Mall, to the Anacostia neighborhood, with the hope that community members from the neighborhood would visit the main Smithsonian museums. It became federally funded in 1970 and focuses on the community in and around Anacostia in its exhibitions. This museum also houses a library. [3]




The Carver Theater served as the first home to ACM. Carver Theater, First Home of the ANM.jpg
The Carver Theater served as the first home to ACM.
Uncle Beazley and S. Dillon Ripley at the opening of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum on September 15, 1967 S. Dillon Ripley & Uncle Beazley.jpg
Uncle Beazley and S. Dillon Ripley at the opening of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum on September 15, 1967

The Anacostia Community Museum was originally described as "an experimental store-front museum" by the Smithsonian Institution in 1966. Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley intended for the museum to serve as an outreach opportunity to bring more African Americans to the National Mall to visit Smithsonian museums. The idea, which rose from a Smithsonian-hosted conference in 1966, came into reality in March 1967, when the Smithsonian acquired the Carver Theater in the Anacostia neighborhood. The Smithsonian sought community support, and a council of local Anacostia residents came together to advise on the project. John Kinard was appointed director of the museum in June 1967. [4] A pastor and activist during the Civil Rights Movement, Kinard was heavily involved in the Anacostia neighborhood, and he made sure that the young people of the neighborhood were involved in the creation of the museum. [5] [6] Every week, the museum's Neighborhood Advisory Committee [7] of community members would meet to help plan the programming and exhibitions. [5] Staff and community members worked side by side to change the building from a defunct movie theater into an exhibition space. The community also assisted in choosing what objects would be displayed. [6]

The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum opened on September 15, 1967. [2] [6] [8] The museum had eight staff members, and only one was permanent. There were no curators or researchers or librarians. [9] A life-size fiberglass model of a Tricerotops , which in 1968 would appear as " Uncle Beazley " in the children's television movie, The Enormous Egg, and which is now near Lemur Island in the National Zoological Park (the National Zoo), attended the museum's opening. [10]

In 1968, the museum hired a staff photographer and a photography lab was opened on site. [11] The museum would not become part of the Smithsonian Institution's federal budget until 1970. [6] That year, the Anacostia Research Center was founded, with funding from the Carnegie Corporation, to create an oral history program. [12] The museum hired its first historian, Louise Daniel Hutchinson, in 1971. [7] By 1972, the museum had ten full-time, permanent staff members, working within three departments: director's office, education, and a research and exhibitions department. The museum found it challenging to incorporate the community into its planning processes as it grew larger, and more developed processes formed to incorporate the community into exhibits. [11] The Neighborhood Advisory Committee, which consisted of ninety people, was cut down in size and renamed the Board of Directors. [7]

John Kinard at the new museum in 1987 John Kinard at New Anacostia Museum.jpg
John Kinard at the new museum in 1987

The Exhibits Design and Production Laboratory, located at Fort Stanton, was opened in October 1974. [6] It was there where preparations for a new museum building took place. In 1976, it suffered a fire after masonite sheets fell from a forklift, and into a container of lacquer thinner. Staff were unable to call for help due to the fire damaging the phone lines. The damage cost approximately $75,000 and no one was injured. [13] The museum became the first Smithsonian museum to use labels for the hearing impaired in their exhibitions, in 1980. [14] An archives devoted to the area of Anacostia was created in 1977. [6]

The new Anacostia Museum was opened on May 17, 1987, located at Fort Stanton. [15] The name change stemmed from the change in the museum's mission, to celebrate African American history not only in Anacostia, but around the world. Long-time director John Kinard died in 1989. [16]

After John Kinard

Steven Newsome, a professional librarian, became the new museum director in 1991, the same year the museum established its own library. [17] The museum went through another name change, in 1995, becoming the Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture. Its intent was to serve as the location for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. [6] During Newsome's tenure the museum underwent an $8.5 million renovation. In 2004 [18] Newsome retired, with James Early becoming acting director. [19] Once more, the museum decided to change its mission, to focus specifically on Anacostia communities, and changed its name to the Anacostia Community Museum in 2006. [6] That year, Camille Akeju became the director. [2]

With the arrival of Akeju, the museum's exhibition process changed, removing the community-driven exhibition process, which allowed community members to submit proposals for exhibitions. The process is now curator-focused, with exhibition concepts being chosen by staff. [2]


The Fort Stanton building, which opened in 1987, was designed by Keyes Condon Florance, Architrave, and Wisnewski Blair Associates. The design, based on the "cultural expressionism style", aimed to make use of the natural setting it resides in. The building exterior is made of red brick motifs reflecting kente cloth. Cylinders made of concrete with glass blocks and blue tile sit in the facade of the building. The cylinders pull influence from the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. Large picture windows reside at the entrance. [6]

In March 2019 the museum closed for a $4.5 million renovation. It reopened in October 2019. [20]


ACM did not have a permanent collection until the late 1970s. The museum was not allowed to build such a collection by the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian lacked in its collections related to African American history and culture, and John Kinard helped encourage other museums to start acquiring objects, such as artwork and pieces owned by Duke Ellington. [21] In 1977 the museum was able to start building its permanent collection. [6] The museum library was established in 1991. [22] It wasn't until 1992 that ACM created its first collections management policy, specifying a focus on the Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas. [23] The museum was donated the archives of Lorenzo Dow Turner, in 2003, by his wife, Lois Turner Williams. In 2010, an exhibition Word, Shout, Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner, Connecting Communities Through Language, was held to showcase the collection. [24] The museum also has a collection of art including work by artists such as James A. Porter, Sam Gilliam, and Benny Andrews. [25]


Visitors at the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum's exhibit of The Rat: Man's Invited Affliction. The exhibit was on display from November 16, 1969, to January 31, 1970. Exhibit The Rat - Man's Invited Affliction.jpg
Visitors at the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum's exhibit of The Rat: Man's Invited Affliction. The exhibit was on display from November 16, 1969, to January 31, 1970.

Throughout its history, the museum's exhibitions have reflected the community of Anacostia, Washington, D.C., and often concerns seen throughout urban communities in the United States. African American history and art has also been showcased in exhibitions, [6] including subjects such as immigration, [26] slavery, [27] civil rights, and music. The opening exhibition at the museum, in 1967, featured the reproduction of an Anacostia store front from 1890, a Project Mercury spacecraft, a theater, a small zoo, and a varied collection of natural history objects. [8] The small zoo featured a parrot, named George, which was a gift from the National Zoo. George died in April, 1977. [28] Other early exhibitions at the museum, when it was still called the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, included 1969's The Rat: Man's Invited Affliction, which examined rat infestations. [6] The museum's bicentennial exhibition, Blacks in the Western Movement, focused on the stories of African Americans who explored and settled the American west. [29] The exhibition traveled nationwide and was made into a documentary film. [6] These early exhibitions, which often consisted of panel displays, were called "pasteboard exhibits," by director John Kinard. Community members in the early years frequently helped put together the exhibitions, along with staff such as exhibit designer James E. Mayo. [11]

ACM started working with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) to create traveling exhibitions, which were the first major African American themed exhibitions at the Smithsonian. [21] In 1977 the exhibition The Anacostia Story exhibited the history of the neighborhood from 1608 to 1930. [30] Frederick Douglass, who lived in Anacostia, was the focus of The Frederick Douglass Years. [31] The 1979 exhibition Out of Africa: From West African Kingdoms to Colonization was the first to make use of the museum's budding permanent collection, and Chancellor Williams lectured. [6] [32] The museum closed for little over two months in, from November until January, 1980, re-opening with the exhibition Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South. [33] To celebrate the centennial of the birth of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Smithsonian organized an institution wide series of events, with ACN organizing Mary McLeod Bethune and Roosevelt's Black Cabinet. [34] Mercer Ellington, the son of Duke Ellington, filmed a public service announcement for the exhibition The Renaissance: Black Arts of the '20s. [35] ACM focused on Washington, D.C.'s role in equal and civil rights in To Achieve These Rights: The Struggle for Equal Rights and Self-Determination in the District of Columbia, 1791-1978. [36] The Washington region was a focus again with Footsteps from North Brentwood, which discussed the history of Prince George's County, Maryland. [37]

In 2006, the ACM exhibition Reclaiming Midwives: Pillars of Community Support, discussed the roles of midwives in African American communities. [2] [18] ACM partnered with the Mexican Cultural Institute to produce The African Presence in Mexico. [1] The 2010 exhibition Word, Shout and Song examined the work of Lorenzo Dow Turner and the Gullah language. [38]


The museum began offering accredited education courses with teachers in 1977. [39] The Museum Education Department also publishes history publications about African American history. [40] In 1987 the ACM created the Museum Academy Program. The program focuses on working with local children throughout the year. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Smithsonian Institution US group of museums and research centers

The Smithsonian Institution, or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded on August 10, 1846, it operates as a trust instrumentality and is not formally a part of any of the three branches of the federal government. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. It was originally organized as the United States National Museum, but that name ceased to exist administratively in 1967.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is an art museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., focusing on Asian art. The Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art together form the Smithsonian's national museums of Asian art in the United States. The Freer and Sackler galleries house the largest Asian art research library in the country.

National Museum of Natural History Natural history museum in Washington, D.C.

The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States. It has free admission and is open 364 days a year. In 2016, with 7.1 million visitors, it was the eleventh most visited museum in the world and the most visited natural history museum in the world. Opened in 1910, the museum on the National Mall was one of the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to hold the national collections and research facilities. The main building has an overall area of 1.5 million square feet (140,000 m2) with 325,000 square feet (30,200 m2) of exhibition and public space and houses over 1,000 employees.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Design museum in Manhattan, New York

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is a design museum located in the Upper East Side's Museum Mile in Manhattan, New York City. It is one of 19 museums that fall under the wing of the Smithsonian Institution and is one of three Smithsonian facilities located in New York City, the other two being the George Gustav Heye Center in Bowling Green and the Archives of American Art New York Research Center in the Flatiron District. It is the only museum in the United States devoted to historical and contemporary design. Its collections and exhibitions explore approximately 240 years of design aesthetic and creativity.

Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum in Washington, D.C., United States

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Together with its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, SAAM holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of art, from the colonial period to the present, made in the United States. The museum has more than 7,000 artists represented in the collection. Most exhibitions take place in the museum's main building, the old Patent Office Building, while craft-focused exhibitions are shown in the Renwick Gallery.

National Museum of African American History and Culture History museum in NW Washington, DC

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It was established in December 2003 and opened its permanent home in September 2016 with a ceremony led by President Barack Obama.

Smithsonian Libraries system of libraries at the Smithsonian Institution, United States

Smithsonian Libraries (SIL), formerly known as Smithsonian Institution Libraries, is a library system comprising 20 branch libraries serving the various Smithsonian Institution museums and research centers, as well as central support services which include a Book Conservation Laboratory and an Imaging Center. The Libraries serve Smithsonian Institution staff as well as the scholarly community and general public with information and reference support. Its collections number over 1.5 million volumes including 40,000 rare books and 2,000 manuscripts. The Libraries also holds the United States' largest trade literature collection, which includes over 300,000 commercial catalogs dating from the early nineteenth century and representing more than 30,000 companies.

Lonnie Bunch Director of the Smithsonian Institution

Lonnie G. Bunch III is an American educator and historian. Bunch is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the first African American and first historian to serve as head of the Smithsonian. He has spent most of his career as a history museum curator and administrator.

John Kinard

John Robert Edward Kinard was an American social activist, pastor, and museum director. He is best known as the director of the Anacostia Museum, a small community museum founded by the Smithsonian Institution in 1967. Kinard was the museum's first director, and remained in the post until his death. The Washington Post said Kinard was "a passionate believer in the idea that the well-being of black people depends on having a record of their past". Noted British archeologist and museologist Sir Kenneth Hudson said Kinard "developed the Anacostia Museum into one of the small number of museums of influence in the world."

Louise Daniel Hutchinson American historian

Louise Daniel Hutchinson was an American historian. She was the former Director of the Research at the Anacostia Community Museum. Growing up in Washington, D.C., Hutchinson was exposed to the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of community. Hutchinson worked closely with the African American community of Washington, D.C. and staff at the Smithsonian Institution to help build the Anacostia Community Museum. She was a historian of the Anacostia community.

Portia James American curator and historian

Portia James was an American curator and historian. A specialist in African-American material culture, she worked as the cultural resources manager of the Anacostia Community Museum.

Carver Theater (Washington, D.C.)

The Carver Theater is a former movie theater located in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. in the United States.

Grafton Tyler Brown American painter

Grafton Tyler Brown was an American painter, lithographer and cartographer. Brown was the first African-American artist to create works depicting the Pacific Northwest and California.

Camille Giraud Akeju is American curator and educator. She is the former director of the Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C..

Michael Atwood Mason is an American folklorist and museum professional. He was, up to February 2021, the Director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

The Barnett-Aden Gallery was a nonprofit art gallery in Washington D.C. founded by James V. Herring and Alonzo J. Aden, who were associated with Howard University's art department and gallery. The gallery, which opened on October 16, 1943 and operated until 1969, was the first successful Black-owned private art gallery in the United States; showcased numerous important artists; and became an important, racially integrated part of the artistic and social worlds of 1940s and 1950s Washington, D.C.

Edith T. Martin American artist and museum professional

Edith T. Martin is an American artist and museum professional.

A community museum is a museum serving as an exhibition and gathering space for specific identity groups or geographic areas.

Zora Martin-Felton American museum director

Zora Martin-Felton is an American museum director and curator. She established the education department at the Anacostia Community Museum, which is a museum in the Smithsonian Institution, and worked as the Education Director there. From the 1960s until the 1990s she was the Assistant Director of that museum.



  1. 1 2 Trescott, Jacqueline (15 November 2009). "A look at Anacostia Community Museum exhibit 'The African Presence in Mexico'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Bass, Holly (March–April 2006). "Camille Akeju: New Director Seeks to Rejuvenate Anacostia Museum". Crisis: 37–39. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  3. "Museum Library Anacostia". 2012.
  4. "John R. Kinard Appointed Director of Anacostia Neighborhood Museum". Smithsonian Institution Archives. 1967. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  5. 1 2 Corsane, 375.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 "Anacostia Community Museum". Smithsonian Museums. Smithsonian Institution Archives . Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 Corsane, 380.
  8. 1 2 Oehser, Paul H. (1970). The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers. p. 10. ISBN   8989456584 . Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  9. Corsane, 376.
  10. (1) "S. Dillon Ripley & "Uncle Beazley"". Smithsonian Institution Archives. September 15, 1967. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2016. Secretary S. Dillon Ripley (1964-1984) and unidentified children with "Uncle Beazley", the dinosaur (Triceratops) used in the film "The Enormous Egg", at the opening of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum on September 15, 1967.
    (2) "A Dinosaur at the Zoo". Art at the National Zoo. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  11. 1 2 3 Corsane, 379.
  12. "Anacostia Research Center Established". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1970. Smithsonian Institution Archives. 1970. p. 109. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  13. "ANM Exhibits Center Damaged by Fire". Torch: 3. September 1976. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  14. "Labels for Hearing Impaired at Anacostia". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1981: 353. 1982. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  15. "MLK Ave. ANM Building Closes to Public". Record Unit 371, Box 5, "The Torch," December 1986, p. 4. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  16. Zora Martin-Felton; Gail S. Lowe (1993). A Different Drummer: John Kinard and the Anacostia Museum. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN   9993951692 . Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  17. Who's Who in America, 53rd edition. New Providence: Marquis Who's Who. 1999.
  18. 1 2 Salmon, Barrington M. (27 October 2011). "Anacostia Museum Looks to the Future as it Celebrates 44 Years". The Washington Informer. Archived from the original on 2012-10-11. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  19. "Newsome Retires as Director of Anacostia Museum". Smithsonian Press Release. Smithsonian Institution Press. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  20. "Back and Better: Anacostia Community Museum Reopens with Refreshed Look Inside and Out".
  21. 1 2 Corsane, 384.
  22. "Museum Library". 2012.
  23. "AM Completes Collection Management Policy". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1992. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  24. Cotter, Holland (2 September 2010). "A Language Explorer Who Heard Echoes of Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  25. "Mission and History". Anacostia Community Museum. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  26. ""Points of Entry" Exhibit at AM, 1996". Annals of the Smithsonian Institution 1997. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  27. ""Before Freedom Came" Opens at the Anacostia Museum". Annals of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  28. "Parrot George Dies". Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. July 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  29. "ANM's First Bicentennial Exhibit Opens". Torch: 1. February 1975. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  30. "Anacostia Story Opens at Anacostia Museum". Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. March 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  31. ""Frederick Douglass Years" Opens at Anacostia". Record Unit 405, Box 1, Folder 1978, Calendar of Events. Smithsonian Institution Archives. February 1978. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  32. ""Out of Africa" Opens at Anacostia Museum". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  33. "ANM Closes, Opens Later with New Exhibition". Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. November 1980. p. 3. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  34. "List of FDR Exhibits Planned for Centennial". The Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. January 1982. p. 1. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  35. "Mercer Ellington Comes to Anacostia". Torch: 2. December 1985. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  36. "Civil Rights Exhibit at AM Opens". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1992. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  37. "Footsteps from North Brentwood Opens at Anacostia". Annals of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  38. Brown, DeNeen (6 August 2010). "Anacostia museum exhibit details how Lorenzo Dow Turner traced Gullah language". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  39. "Anacostia Museum Offers Education Program". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  40. "African American Diaspora Booklet Published". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1979: 367. 1979.