July 17, 2008

Anacostia Has a Museum?

Not even the geocachers know where it is.
Number of people there when I was there: 13

Located halfway up a steep hill, completely cut off from most conventional forms of transportation, sits one of the coolest museums I've seen in DC. What the Anacostia Community Museum lacks in access it makes up for in personality and local information.

There's a whole section dedicated to "blockbusting" and segregation in DC, another with maps of the first settlements in Anacostia, and a third showcasing some of the families that were long-time residents. Most museums tend to have a sort of sterile or austere view of the artifacts they keep, and don't give an impression of change over time. The thing I really like about the Anacostia Museum is not only that their collection of narratives is (by it's nature) both engaging and historic, but also that it's set up in chronological order and has a whole section on future plans for neighborhood development, including the 14th Street & Good Hope Rd. beautification effort and the plans for the I-295 pedestrian bridge. The museum also pays close attention to Anacostia community leaders, and the issues they faced during their time. That's the sort of information you won't get anywhere else, and to me epitomizes why museums were created to begin with.

I don't know why they put the museum in the middle of nowhere without good signs or an easy entrance (it's at 1901 Fort Place SE, 20020 for those who like google maps):

View Larger Map

If you have a couple free minutes some day between 10am and 5pm, even on Sundays, you should go. The people were even really polite (nay, kind!) when telling me I couldn't take pictures inside.


CGAkeju said...

Response to the BEYOUD BREAD blog – 7/18/08

As the director of the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum I want to thank you for your blog entry. I appreciate that you recognize the thoughtful preparation of the exhibition so that it would have an easily digestible impact on visitors.

I do want to address your statement about "why they put a museum in the middle of nowhere". The concept for this museum was to take the Smithsonian to the residents of DC, since they were not venturing into SI museums on the Mall. It was located in Anacostia because, of the many neighborhoods in DC that were considered, residents of SE enthusiastically embraced the concept and advocated for this site. These same residents became the museum's greatest supporters and a collective conscience -- providing input that would make sure that this SI museum was relevant to their history, culture and experiences. This museum is committed to remaining relevant while embracing inevitable change.

As far as accessibility, our location is a deterrent to many visitors. We are truly a "destination" and not a place you walk by on your way to somewhere else. There is no consistent foot traffic that promotes people to just drop in. This is some that could and should be addressed with the proper financial resources. We are looking for support to establish a shuttle service that would transport people from the downtown Mall sites to ACM and another that would do a loop between the Anacostia Metro station, ACM and other historic and cultural sites in this area. In the mean time, we are not "cut off from most conventional forms of [public] transportation" as you stated. We are accessible from the Metro station by taking the W2 bus route that stops directly in front of the museum. We are also one of the only SI museums that has a public parking lot (free) and ample street parking.

Again thank you for coming to the Anacostia Community Museum and for your comments and observations. Please help us spread the word about this hidden treasure in the heart of SE.

Camille Akeju, Director
Anacostia Community Museum

Matt Siemer said...

Hi Camille,

I've been telling everyone about how impressed I was with the museum after our visit yesterday--I think you have a very impressive and creative approach to community history.

I do hope that serious efforts are taken to make the museum accessible to some of the busier roads around your museum. In the meantime, you have at least one walking advertisement.

Thanks for your comments and hard work,