How did the black cultural politics of the 1960s prompt the Smithsonian to break with tradition and establish the first experimental black community-based museum in Washington DC? Using a historical perspective, I examine how political-economic and institutional forces combine with more ideological concerns to construct flexible representations of race, urbanism, and community over time. I follow these developments across three decades to examine how internal and external factors shape the exhibition of group identity and collective pasts. Drawing on primary and secondary sources, including interviews with museum staff, newspaper articles, and Smithsonian archives, I illustrate how activist-minded staff at a local museum worked to construct an image of group identity and urban culture through curation, while negotiating symbolic, political, economic, and institutional pressures on cultural production.Key words: community museums, racial identity, memory, urban, everyday life.
Museum and society. Vol.14. Is.1. P.160-177Washington, DC: Museum and society, 2016