Welcome to the Anacostia Community Museum Community Documentation Initiative

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s Community Documentation Initiative (CDI) is an ongoing effort to document and make accessible to the public a wide range of original material on the social, cultural, economic and contemporary community life of urban neighborhoods. While we maintain an emphasis on the Washington, DC metropolitan area, our research and collecting activities include urban communities across the United States and around the world. The Community Documentation Initiative brings the resources of the museum—particularly research materials and archival/object collections—directly to constituents through public programs, gallery exhibitions, digital content, and special programs, as well as builds and enhances interactive dialogue with museum audiences. Using these research and collections materials, the CDI builds collaborative, community-based networks of neighborhood organizations, cultural institutions, and individuals; and works with our audiences to better understand the ways that the museum can help inform social causes of great contemporary concern.

East of the Anacostia River Takeout Tour

Show me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th century French writer, is credited with being one of the founders of the gastronomic essay. As the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us it is worthwhile to think about our own food culture.  A prominent symbol of the season is the cornucopia, the horn of plenty, which manifests the wealth of the harvest.

However, in many areas of this country, like D.C.’s wards located east of the Anacostia River, food insecurity is confronted on a daily basis.  One of our most basic human needs, access to healthy, nutritional foods is a foundational ingredient towards total well-being.  Yet, food hardship is a daily reality for many Americans.

We took a brief tour of the east of the Anacostia breadbasket: the takeout restaurants (and a couple sit-down ones too) that have defined eating in Wards 7 & 8.

Wards 7 & 8 do have some sit-down restaurants. Busboys & Poets is moving into historic Anacostia.  Uniontown Bar & Grill has survived an ignominious beginning, to become an engaging spot in the community.  Cheers offers some of the best crabmeat-smothered french fries this side of the Chesapeake Bay. Yet wider access to decent grocery stores and healthy food offerings remains elusive for many residents in D.C.’s most economically challenged neighborhoods.

Local archivist and historian Jerry A. McCoy has collected a few relics from the days when a sit-down restaurant east of the Anacostia was perhaps more commonplace:

Hong Kong Restaurant advertisement. Collection of Jerry A. McCoy, Silver Spring, MD

Hong Kong Restaurant advertisement. Collection of Jerry A. McCoy, Silver Spring, MD

The Hong Kong Restaurant operated on Nichols Avenue S.E., what is known today as Martin Luther King Jr. Ave S.E.  in Congress Heights, just down the street from the Hong Kong carryout featured in the video. Tucker’s Restaurant, advertisement below, was located just across the Souza Bridge from Capitol Hill.

Tucker's Restaurant, Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. Collection of Jerry A. McCoy, Silver Spring, MD

Tucker’s Restaurant, Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. Collection of Jerry A. McCoy, Silver Spring, MD

Foodways change as cultural mores do.  As we break bread this Thanksgiving, we might take a moment to reflect on something many of us take for granted, that access to healthy foods in one of the richest countries in the world is not a privilege to be taken lightly.

 

 

Sullivan Family: Service through the Generations

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In honor of Veteran’s Day, the Museum is showcasing the Sullivan Family Collection. Several generations of Sullivans served the country by joining the armed forces or otherwise aiding in military efforts.

Many of the Museum’s holdings relate to family history and community life. Photographs, documents, treasured heirlooms and the accompanying stories reveal the lives of men and women whose efforts contributed to shaping history.

Almost a century ago, Theodore M. Sullivan enlisted in the U.S. army to fight in World War I. His Enlistment Record lists his character as “excellent,” and indicates that he was involved in the battle at Verdun, France. Several photographs show him in uniform. Mr. Sullivan was awarded the Purple Heart medal for military merit for eleven different wounds he sustained while fighting in Europe in 1918.

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In subsequent years, Mr. Sullivan was active in the James E. Walker Post 26 of the American Legion, a wartime veterans’ organization formed in 1919. In this photograph, he is pictured in the middle, third from the top, during a visit of his Post to Washington, DC in 1940.

Other members of the Sullivan family continued a tradition of service for many decades. Theodore’s half-sister, Sadie Thompson, served in the Boston Chapter of the American Red Cross for over half a century, and all of Theodore’s sons enlisted in the armed forces during World War II. Edwin joined the U.S. Navy, while Earle entered the Tuskegee Institution’s program for training the first African American military pilots, now known as the “Tuskegee Airmen.” He was well into his training before his untimely death at the end of 1943.

The display will be on view through November 16, 2016.

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Happy Birthday, Celia Cruz!

Born Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, the Queen of Salsa is better known as Celia Cruz.

The importance and significance of this music legend cannot be understated. She is represented all over the Smithsonian including the National Museum of American History  , National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Postal Museum , Smithsonian Folkways, and the National Portrait Gallery.

Every museum has a unique mission and thus interpretation of history and culture. The Anacostia Community Museum’s mission focuses on urban history and culture. The next exhibition to open will be Gateways.

Gateways  explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

Visitors to the upcoming Gateways exhibition will see an urban interpretation of the icon.  M. Tony Peralta, a child of Dominican immigrants, was born and raised in the uptown neighborhood of Washington Heights, NY.  Being raised in New York during the hip-hop generation greatly influenced him and his work.

What does Celia Cruz have to do with Gateways?

The ubiquity of Dominican salons might surprise you. Indeed you can find them all over the U.S, including the Gateways metro areas of Washington DC, Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC. Rolos are iconic in Dominican salons and Celia Cruz is everyday music. Celia Cruz is a music icon and rolos are an everyday item.  Peralta’s work blurs the lines of the iconic and the everyday giving us:

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Celia con Rolos, 2015 M. Tony Peralta NY, New York

 

The exhibition will boast the 37″ x 42″ canvas rather than this poster version. But enjoy this preview! You can hear Tony talk about this piece and his work when Gateways opens December 5th.

Collections Highlight: Joy McLean Bosfield Papers

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A page from Scrapbook II, 1945-1985. Joy McLean Bosfield Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joy McLean Bosfield.

Joy McLean Bosfield (1924-1991) was a singer, musical director, actress, and musical instructor who performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East from the 1940s to the 1980s.  Her papers in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, documents Ms. McLean Bosfield’s professional career through photographs, correspondence, programs, and scrapbooks.

Joy was born on January 27, 1924 to John and Florence Mearimore.  Her mother, an immigrant from Demerara, Guiana (now part of Guyana), married McLean’s father, a prominent New York businessman, in March of 1923 in New Jersey.  Joy lived in Paramus, New Jersey until 1940, when she graduated from Ridgewood High School.  During that same year Bosfield was accepted to the prestigious Hunter College, in New York.

On February 26, 1945, McLean Bosfield performed her first recital at St. Martin’s Little Theatre. Three years later in 1948, McLean married Charles McLean, who was originally from British Guyana, and the couple moved to England.  She began performing in Europe in the early 1950s, singing soprano leads for productions for the BBC, British churches, and English musical plays. While in London, an American production of Porgy and Bess used her talents during their international tours as a rehearsal accompanist, vocal role coach, and assistant to the musical director.

After returning to the United States in the mid-1950s, Bosfield continue her career as a concert artist. In 1963 she moved to Washington, DC, where she became musical director of John Wesley AME Zion Church. She also worked for the Frederick Wilkerson Studio of Voice as a vocal coach, and managed the studio after the death of Wilkerson until the 1980s.

Retiring and moving to Chapala, Mexico in 1985, Bosfield participated in community theater productions and other community functions there, until her death on April 4, 1999.

Do you want to learn more about Joy McLean Bosfield’s long and distinguished career?  You can by helping transcribe her two fragile scrapbooks in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook I, 1923-1964

Joy McLean Bosfield Scrapbook II, 1945-1985

 

The Miss Senior DC 2016 Pageant

We had the pleasure of attending the Ms. Senior DC pageant earlier this summer.  The pageant featured several of Ward 7 & 8 neighbors, including Miss Congress Heights, Elvera Patrick, who received the title of Miss Congeniality for her efforts with this pageant. Below we present a highlight reel of some of our favorite moments.

 

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