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Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum reopens this weekend

The museum is back and better with an updated building and new leadership.


The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) reopens on Sunday, Oct. 13, after a seven-month-long renovation.  

The museum, located in the Anacostia neighborhood, underwent a $4.5 million construction project that took the majority of the year to complete. Now, the museum is ready to reopen its doors to the community. 

Visitors will be able to see the differences the moment they pull into the driveway. The landscape was redesigned to include flowers native to Anacostia. A vegetable garden was also added to support the museum’s urban gardening initiative. Most notably, the museum now has an outdoor exhibit that gives the history of the Anacostia River Watershed.

The first thing you’ll see when you walk in is a mural by community artist Jay Coleman.  

“I have been working with the museum for over 10 years as a community person because I used to live on Talbot street which is one street over,” said Coleman.

The artist views this opportunity as a huge honor. He appreciates the existence of the museum because it is the only Smithsonian East of the River. 

“For people East of the River to have access to the Smithsonian without having to navigate Independence Avenue and the National Mall is a true jewel,” exclaimed Coleman. “Regardless of what the community looks and how it may change, it’s still a community staple.”

The ACM’s premier exhibition on gentrification, “A Right to the City,” is still on display with some new features. It will remain on view until April of next year.

The museum also has a new director, Melanie Adams. Adams comes from the Minnesota Historical Society and oversaw 26 historic sites that the society ran. 

“I just joined the museum back on August 5. So this is about my 10th week. But I did get a chance to actually visit the museum in February before it closed. So I have seen a little of a before and after,” explained Adams.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Adams is happy to be back on the east coast. 

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“What attracted me to the museum was their deep engagement with the neighborhood and telling their stories,” said Adams. 

The museum was created 52 years ago with the mission of bringing the Smithsonian out of the National Mall and into a neighborhood. The ACM examines the impact of contemporary social issues on urban communities. The museum was originally located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and in 1987 it moved to Fort Stanton in Southeast D.C.

“If you think of everything that was happening in the ‘60s, during that time period, this really was an opportunity for the Smithsonian to provide a space for the community to begin telling its stories,” explained Adams.

The museum is always looking for ways to work with the neighborhood. It works with community scholars and elders who are willing to share their story so that the next generation can learn from it. 

“Our whole point of doing the refresh was really to find a way to create a more welcoming environment to invite the community in and see our exhibits and experience our program,” said the director. 

The museum will celebrate its reopening on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring refreshments and music. Visitors will also get the opportunity to meet the newly appointed director, Melanie Adams. 

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