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Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Community Museum
Anacostia Community Museum is located in Washington, D.C.
Location within Washington, D.C.
Established 1967
Location Washington, D.C.
Type History museum
Visitors 38,963 (2008)[1]
Director Camille Akeju
Public transit access      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 nineteen 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.


  • History 1
  • Architecture 2
  • Collections 3
  • Exhibitions 4
  • Administration 5
  • Education 6
  • References 7
    • Notes 7.1
    • Further reading 7.2
  • External links 8


The Carver Theater served as the first home to ACM.

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.[3] A pastor and civil rights activist, 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.[4][5] Every week, the museum's Neighborhood Advisory Committee[6] of community members would meet to help plan the programming and exhibitions.[4] 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.[5]

On September 15, 1967,[2][5][7] the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum opened. The museum had eight staff members, and only one was permanent. There was no curator or researchers.[8] In 1968, the museum hired a staff photographer and a photography lab was opened on site.[9] The museum would not become part of the Smithsonian Institution's federal budget until 1970.[5] That year, the Anacostia Research Center was founded, with funding from the Carnegie Corporation, to create an oral history program.[10] The museum hired its first historian, Louise Daniel Hutchinson, in 1971.[6] 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.[9] The Neighborhood Advisory Committee, which consisted of ninety people, was cut down in size and renamed the Board of Directors.[6]

The Exhibits Design and Production Laboratory, located at Fort Stanton, was opened in October 1974.[5] 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.[11] The museum became the first Smithsonian museum to use labels for the hearing impaired in their exhibitions, in 1980.[12] An archives devoted to the area of Anacostia was created in 1977.[5]

John Kinard at the new museum in 1987

The new Anacostia Museum was opened on May 17, 1987, located at Fort Stanton.[13] 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.[14] Steven Newsome became the new museum director in 1991.[15] 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.[5] During Newsome's tenure the museum underwent an $8.5 million renovation. In 2004[16] Newsome retired, with James Early becoming acting director.[17] 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.[5] 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.[5]


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 help encourage other museums to start acquiring objects, such as artwork and pieces owned by Duke Ellington.[18] In 1977 the museum was able to start building its permanent collection.[5] It wasn't until 1992 that ACM created its first collections management policy, specifying a focus on the Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas.[19] 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.[20] The museum also has a collection of art including artists such as James A. Porter, Sam Gilliam, and Benny Andrews.[21]


Visitors at the The Rat: Man's Invited Affliction exhibit at the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum. 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,[5] including subjects such as immigration,[22]

  • Anacostia Community Museum Official website

External links

  • Marsh, Caryl. "A Neighborhood Museum That Works." Museum News. October, 1968: 11-16.
  • Corsane, Gerard. Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader. London: Routledge (2005). ISBN 0415289467

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c d e Bass, Holly (March–April 2006). "Camille Akeju: New Director Seeks to Rejuvenate Anacostia Museum". Crisis: 37–39. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "John R. Kinard Appointed Director of Anacostia Neighborhood Museum". Smithsonian Institution Archives. 1967. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Corsane, 375.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Anacostia Community Museum". Smithsonian Museums.  
  6. ^ a b c Corsane, 380.
  7. ^ a b Oehser, Paul H. (1970). The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers. p. 10.  
  8. ^ Corsane, 376.
  9. ^ a b c Corsane, 379.
  10. ^ "Anacostia Research Center Established". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1970. Smithsonian Institution Archives. 1970. p. 109. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "ANM Exhibits Center Damaged by Fire". Torch: 3. September 1976. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "Labels for Hearing Impaired at Anacostia". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1981: 353. 1982. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "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. 
  14. ^ Zora Martin-Felton; Gail S. Lowe (1993). A Different Drummer: John Kinard and the Anacostia Museum. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.  
  15. ^ Who's Who in America, 53rd edition. New Providence: Marquis Who's Who. 1999. 
  16. ^ a b Salmon, Barrington M. (27 October 2011). "Anacostia Museum Looks to the Future as it Celebrates 44 Years". The Washington Informer. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  17. ^ "Newsome Retires as Director of Anacostia Museum". Smithsonian Press Release. Smithsonian Institution Press. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Corsane, 384.
  19. ^ "AM Completes Collection Management Policy". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1992. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  20. ^ Cotter, Holland (2 September 2010). "A Language Explorer Who Heard Echoes of Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  21. ^ "Mission and History". Anacostia Community Museum. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  22. ^ Points of Entry" Exhibit at AM, 1996""". Annals of the Smithsonian Institution 1997. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  23. ^ Before Freedom Came" Opens at the Anacostia Museum""". Annals of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  24. ^ "Parrot George Dies". Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. July 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "ANM's First Bicentennial Exhibit Opens". Torch: 1. February 1975. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Anacostia Story Opens at Anacostia Museum". Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. March 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ Out of Africa" Opens at Anacostia Museum""". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  29. ^ "List of FDR Exhibits Planned for Centennial". The Torch. Smithsonian Institution Archives. January 1982. p. 1. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  30. ^ "Mercer Ellington Comes to Anacostia". Torch: 2. December 1985. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  31. ^ "Civil Rights Exhibit at AM Opens". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1992. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  32. ^ "Footsteps from North Brentwood Opens at Anacostia". Annals of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  33. ^ Brown, DeNeen (6 August 2010). "Anacostia museum exhibit details how Lorenzo Dow Turner traced Gullah language". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  34. ^ "Anacostia Museum Offers Education Program". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  35. ^ "African American Diaspora Booklet Published". Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1979: 367. 1979. 



The museum began offering accredited education courses with teachers in 1977.[34] The Museum Education Department also publishes history publications about African American history.[35] In 1987 the ACM created the Museum Academy Program. The program focuses on working with local children throughout the year.[5]


The Anacostia Community Museum is governed by director Camille Akeju. As of 2008, the museums annual budget was $2.5 million.[1] ACM has nineteen staff members.

Vegetable and flower gardens outside Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (ANM) tended by elementary school students for summer science project, 1982.


In 2006, the ACM exhibition Reclaiming Midwives: Pillars of Community Support, discussed the roles of midwives in African American communities.[2][16] 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.[33]

[32] [26] exhibited the history of the neighborhood from 1608 to 1930.The Anacostia Story In 1977 the exhibition [18] 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.

[9].James E. Mayo. Community members in the early years frequently helped put together the exhibitions, along with staff such as exhibit designer John Kinard These early exhibitions, which often consisted of panel displays, were called "pasteboard exhibits," by director [5].documentary film The exhibition traveled nationwide and was made into a [25].American west focused on the stories of African Americans who explored and settled the Blacks in the Western Movement, The museum's bicentennial exhibition, [5] infestations.rat which examined The Rat: Man's Invited Affliction, Other early exhibitions at the museum, when it was still called the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, included 1969's [24]

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