Architectural History of the Anacostia Community Museum, 1985



Form/Genre: Cultural expressionism

Date: 1985-1989


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  • The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum was first conceived by Secretary S. Dillon Ripley as a way to reach underserved communities outside of the National Mall. The museum was first opened in the renovated Carver Theater (built in 1948) in 1967. The museum proved to be immensely popular and soon outgrew the space.
  • Ground breaking for the new museum took place in May, 1985. Designed by the Washington architecture firm Keyes Condon Florance, this 28,000 square foot museum is considered to be cultural expressionist style architecture.
  • The museum opened in 1989, and in 1995 was renamed Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, and served as a planning site for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2002 it undertook an extensive renovation. The renovation, led by architecture firms architrave p.c. and Wisnewski Blair, was sought to maximize the space of the museum, but also to add elements to the building that express the history and culture of African Americans. Elements that were added include the red brick facade that invokes a woven Kente cloth, and the glass, block, and blue tile inlaid concrete cylinders that are reminiscent of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. In 2006 the museum was renamed the Anacostia Community Museum.


  • Anacostia Community Museum
  • Anacostia Neighborhood Museum
  • Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture
  • Keyes Condon & Florance
  • architrave p.c architects
  • Wisnewski Blair Architects


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Ewing, H., & Ballard, A. (2009). A guide to Smithsonian architecture. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Community museums
  • Architecture
  • Conservation and renovation
  • Museums
  • Museum architecture
  • History
  • Building--Conservation and renovation
  • African Americans--History
  • African Americans


Washington (D.C.)


Cultural expressionism

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