ACM traces its founding to the civil rights era and the Black power movement—a period that advanced some of the most enduring social change in our country's history. Originally established as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in 1967, the museum's exhibits and programs sought to preserve and share the rich history and culture, vibrancy, and contributions of Anacostia’s African American community. At the time, ACM pioneered a community-centered approach to curation and the development of its programs and exhibitions. Viewed as groundbreaking, this innovation opened the door to greater inclusion in the sector—giving rise to community-based museums across the country, who made it their mission to recount stories often overlooked or undervalued by traditional arts and cultural institutions.
Now, more than 50 years later, ACM remains grounded in its founding, bringing to light the unsung stories of people who are emboldened to catalyze change in their neighborhoods and communities. These stories find their origins in the Washington D.C. region, but their resonance extends beyond the borders of the nation's capital. With the country's recent reckoning on race, many museums are examining inherently biased practices, the dynamics of power, and moving toward more shared influence and greater inclusion. For ACM, this is core to what we do, who we are, and who we have been over the last half-century. We stand in a moment where we understand our work is more important than ever—centering community, raising awareness of systemic injustice, giving voice to the hard and often unsung work of making change and encouraging others to see their own power in creating a more equitable and just nation.
We are wholly aligned and committed to the Smithsonian’s broader institutional vision to create a hopeful future for all people using a multi-disciplinary approach to contextualize and transform our understanding and response to race and racism. As a unit of the Smithsonian, we channel the power each of us holds to fuel the voices, ideas and dreams of tomorrow. We understand our stories are not set in stone. We seek out the stories we missed and the perspectives we lack. We unpack our past to give rise to the next century.