The Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast Washington, D.C. was predominantly European American up until the 1950s, when white flight began to take hold. Soon it, along with most of the other neighborhoods south and east of the Anacostia River, became overwhelmingly African American. So when the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum was founded in 1967, it took as its focus the history and culture of African Americans.
Since renamed the Anacostia Community Museum, it has amassed a collection of 6,000 artifacts and art objects that document community life in Washington, D.C. and folk artists here and elsewhere. It uses its limited remaining space for rotating exhibits planned in consultation with community representatives, often with works selected by guest curators. In the spring of 2012, for example, it continues an ongoing community Call and Response series with exhibitions of work by local artist Steven Cummings and multimedia production studio Creative Junkfood. It also continues to show its popular exhibition Separate and Unequaled: Black Baseball in the District of Columbia.
But in truth, the Anacostia Community Museum emphasizes such exhibitions perhaps less than its bigger cousins in the Smithsonian system. Instead, it distinguishes itself more through its continual public programs, discussions, and workshops. During the month of April 2012, for example, you could come to the museum to learn how to write graffiti, create a song, paint a portrait, appreciate jazz, dance the mambo, and much more. A full schedule is always on the museum’s website. And although it is less visible to casual visitors, the museum also stresses education, offering cultural programming continuously to the same group of area children throughout the school year and the summer months.
Anacostia has gotten a lot safer since homicides peaked there in the 1990s, but it’s still probably not a great idea to be walking on side streets there after dark. If you take the Metro, for example, it’s a long walk from the Anacostia station to the museum; transfer to the bus instead. Be sure to pick up a bus transfer before you board the train, and when you get off at the Anacostia station take the exit marked “Local,” not the one marked “Regional,” to get either the W2 or W3 bus. For more information, visit http://anacostia.si.edu.
Anacostia Community Museum (Smithsonian)
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except December 25.
Parking: The Anacostia Community Museum provides free parking.
Metrorail: Green Line to the Anacostia Metro Station, exit at LOCAL exit, take w2/w3 bus to the museum.