The Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) is one of the twenty museums under the Smithsonian Institute. It represents the Anacostia neighborhood in Washington, D.C., of which the majority of the population has been African American since the 1960s. At this time the Smithsonian’s secretary S. Dillon Ripley proposed to create a museum that could reach this demographic and encourage attendance to the National Mall. Soon the Carver Theater, a former movie venue in the neighborhood, was bought and community collaboration became crucial to the museum’s success. In 1967 the museum opened as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, and for a few years it featured Uncle Beazley, a life-size fiberglass Triceratops figure that currently resides at the National Zoo.
The museum saw much growth in the progressive years; it opened a photography lab and research center, and it was federally funded by the Smithsonian in 1970. Staff increased and developed into three departments and a Board of Directors was created. The death of John Kinard, the first museum director, in 1989 brought subsequent changes to the museum’s focus and name. By 2006, the museum changed to the current name, and exhibition proposals shifted to the staff instead of the community.
Exhibitions at the ACM have focused on bringing relevance to Anacostia; topics have ranged from as broad as the civil rights movement to as local as a store front dated back to 1890. Notable exhibitions included the Frederick Douglass Years, The Rat: Man’s Invited Affliction, and The Anacostia Story. Projects were also created to explore local issues in the community, both past and contemporary—from art to neighborhood development to the impact of immigrants in the area. Working as an educator too, the ACM established the Museum Academy to give after-school and summer opportunities to local school children throughout the year.