Anacostia Museum

The Anacostia Museum was established in 1967 by S. Dillon Ripley, Smithsonian Secretary at the time, as a center for the study of African American history and culture. Originally called the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, it was located at the old Carver Theater on Martin Luther King Drive in an area once known as Uniontown. By the 1950’s, the demographics of the suburb of Anacostia were gradually changing from a mostly white working class neighborhood to one that is today predominantly (92%), African American.

The first exhibit at its present facility, established in 1987 at 1901 Fort Place SE in the community of Fort Stanton, consisted of a space suit, zoo, and general store. From the time of this exhibit, however, interest continued to grow in the preservation of the African American heritage, and the Museum now houses exhibits tracing the history of the black West, their churches and leaders, their contributions and accomplishments. Collections in three galleries on the first floor include photographs, musical instruments, important documents, and clothing. These artifacts represent the widening influence and effect of African American peoples on our nation’s history. Some recent exhibits include D.C. Undercover, photographs of ordinary people doing everyday things by Stephen Cummings. The focus of many of these pictures is on people wearing hats or caps such as the photograph of African American women attending a “Hat Tea” at the Museum. The unique collection of paper dolls by Arabella Grayson is a 200-year history of black paper dolls portraying the stereotypical images of black America. The exhibition included the Topsy paper doll made in 1863 to promote Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and paper dolls from Canada, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Italy. Another interesting exhibit, Banding Together, told the story of the development of school bands in the District’s public schools, with emphasis on military marching bands, from 1880 to the present-day.

In preceding years, the Museum presented numerous other exhibits such as the history of Anna J. Cooper, an educator, a scholar, and noted author of A Voice From The South, and the stories, artifacts, and artwork depicting the growth of black churches in Eastern cities from the 1740’s to the late 1800’s. There have been exhibits by emerging black artists such as Jonathan Calm, Iona Brown, and Daniel Hoover, as well as annual celebrations of Juneteenth (June 19, 1865), the date when slaves in Texas learned of their liberation. The Anacostia was expanded in 1999 — 2000 to include an online academy that works as a learning environment in conjunction with the Museum. It provides information on the discovery and interpretation of the artifacts housed within the Museum through video demonstrations, lectures, and workshops by noted scholars and leaders in the African American community.

Several upcoming exhibits include paintings in the John R. Kinard Gallery (named after the first Museum Director) by artists who live in Wards 7 and 8 of DC. A Creative Profile: Artists of the East Bank is sponsored in conjunction with the Ward 7 Arts Collaborative organization, which is dedicated to promoting the arts in the community. On display in the Main Gallery are Voices and Visions of Tha Bloc by Ellis L. Marsalis III, who shares his perspectives and portrays the lives of people on one block in Baltimore City through poetry, photographs, and essays. The 2007 calendar of events also includes a presentation by Camille Akeju, Museum Director, in how to design a portfolio for aspiring artists, a career day for grades 7-12, hands-on acrylic painting with Diane Bugash, poetry slams, and walks on Dr. George Washington Carver nature trails, K-8th grades.

The primary mission of the Anacostia Museum is to preserve the concept of communities, to remove the stereotypical images of the past, and to educate people on the significance of ethnic diversity and development around the world.

Hours: Daily, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed December 25.
Admission: Free. Tours for groups of 15 or more.
Handicap accessible. Street parking.
Ph: 202-633-4820

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