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Visiting the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
Step foot inside a local riverside community and discover this Smithsonian Institution gem.
Shining a lens on urban life, the Anacostia Community Museum examines, documents and interprets the impact of historical and contemporary social issues on communities. However, the museum didn’t always focus on global communities, as the museum owes its roots to Anacostia’s local African American history and culture.
The museum is located a mile from the Anacostia Stop on Metro’s Green Line in DC's Anacostia neighborhood. It is also serviced by taxis and ride-sharing companies like Uber. The museum offers free parking and, in summertime, a free round-trip shuttle that picks up at the National Mall and Anacostia Metro station.
Going global through locals
After opening in 1967, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum – as it was known then – helped tell the history and experience of its surroundings, largely African American neighborhoods. After the National Museum of African American History and Culture was announced, the museum took its local community focus and applied it more globally. It changed its name to the Anacostia Community Museum in 2006 to magnify ethnic themes and social and cultural issues occurring within urban communities.
The museum debuted a new permanent exhibition in 2015 called Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington, DC, which highlights people from Panama and their migrations to the DC area from the time of the California Gold Rush to the Panama Canal’s 100th anniversary in 2014. The bilingual exhibit, told through a narrative of images and commentary, connects viewers to a local DC community of relocated Zonians and Panamanians and provides context for their roots.
Rotating exhibits often focus on human stories and are the source of community partnerships where curators and creators work alongside residents, local officials, activists, artists, businesses, families and other organizations.
African American history and culture
Even though the museum has broadened its focus in recent years, its collections contain thousands of unique artifacts related to the local African American community. From family archives of 19th-century African American locals to works from black DC artists, the artifacts highlight how inextricably linked the museum is to its local surroundings. These relics have been used in exhibits and continue to tell the story of east-of-the-river communities in DC.
If you’re eager to explore more of DC’s African American heritage, then stick around the neighborhood. Anacostia is home to orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass at Cedar Hill, plus these things to see and do.