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The District of Columbia Housing Authority has donated its historical photographs collection to the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum. The collection fits well with the museum’s mission of exploring social issues impacting diverse populations of the D.C. metropolitan area to promote mutual understanding and strengthen community bonds. The museum has included select DCHA historic photographs in a newly opened exhibition, “A Right to the City.”

“So much of the District of Columbia’s rich history is found in these photographs and annual reports,” said DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett. “This opportunity with the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum being a permanent home for the DCHA collection is wonderful because it not only protects and preserves this history, but it also shares it with the world.”

The donation of the DCHA historical archive to the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum was initiated some three years ago when DCHA began the search for a permanent home for its historical images. The photographs include thousands of negatives, prints, and slides, and feature public housing communities dating back to the 1930s.

“A donation such as this one is key to our ability to accurately chronicle the history and experiences of the metro Washington community,” said Lori Yarrish, Director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum. “This material will help us offer a variety of perspectives in our work that can inform the discussions between local leadership and citizens in planning for the community.”

The process to properly keep and administer such historic photographs to preserve them and avoid any further damage is a very difficult one. It requires professional equipment, skills, and storage space that DCHA does not have. Finding an organization that can do this, but also provide easy access to the materials for the public or scholarly research has taken time.

“We are so excited to have the world’s largest museum and research complex house our collection. Plus, the agency’s archival materials will be preserved to the highest industry standards and individuals and organizations from across the nation will be able to learn about the history of the housing authority and our communities,” said Beata Kaczkowska, who oversees the historical archives project at DCHA.

“This significant addition to our permanent collection will help us continue to tell the story of the many communities of Washington, D.C.,” said Samir Meghelli, Ph.D., Chief Curator of the museum. “We look forward to helping preserve and share the important history of public housing in the District.”

Several images from the donated material are featured in the newly opened exhibition, “A Right to the City,” on display until April 20, 2020. The exhibition “explores the history of neighborhood change in the nation’s capital, but also the rich history of neighborhood organizing and civic engagement that transformed the city in the face of tremendous odds. With a focus on a diverse range of neighborhoods across the city, the exhibition tells the story of how ordinary Washingtonians have helped shape and reshape their neighborhoods in extraordinary ways—through the fight for quality public education, for healthy and green communities, for equitable development and transit, and for a genuinely democratic approach to city planning,” according to a statement from the Anacostia Community Museum.

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The back of houses on Wonder Court S.W. dated March 1949.
Last modified: 6/4/2018 1:49:17 PM