A Dream Realized: The National Museum of African American History & Culture Library

Trina Brown : February 28, 2014 9:00 am : Collection Highlights, History and Culture, homepage

NMAAHC construction

View of the NMAAHC construction site, January 2014

Shauna Collier, Librarian for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, contributed this post.

Late last year my dream of becoming the librarian for the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) came true, and a month ago I returned to the Smithsonian Libraries (I worked here years ago as the Anacostia Librarian).  After receiving the warmest welcome from my library and museum colleagues, I started receiving the question “So what’s happening with the NMAAHC Library?”  Well, it is all still coming together, but I will use this opportunity to give a brief update. more »

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Weeding the Z’s

Anne Evenhaugen : September 13, 2013 9:00 am : Art and Design, Collection Highlights, homepage, Intern and Volunteer Updates

"Z" classification books to be deaccessioned from the AA/PG Library.

 The following post was written by American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library intern Becca Tanen. She is currently in her second year of a dual master’s program in Library Science and English at Catholic University.

Two years ago, I was working at the library of a K-12 private school in Maryland when one of the librarians handed me the CREW (Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding) manual for weeding modern libraries, developed by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

This library had never weeded the collection before, so I thanked her, excited to begin tackling such an exciting challenge. “I don’t think anyone has ever thanked me for giving them a weeding manual before,” she said, laughing. more »

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Downtown Progress, 1960-1977

Anne Evenhaugen : August 16, 2013 2:24 pm : Art and Design, Collection Highlights, homepage, Intern and Volunteer Updates, Special Collections



From the Downtown Progress file in the Art and Artist File collection.

This post was contributed by Kaitlyn Tanis, intern at the American Art and Portrait Gallery Library.

Walking around downtown Washington, D.C. (located between the Capitol and the White House) is always a sight to behold. Between the grand marble buildings, the throngs of tourists, museums, and the vast number of restaurants, downtown D.C. represents the diversity and beauty of the city.

However, the area was not always a thriving tourist destination.  Pre- 1960s, downtown D.C. was a crime and poverty-stricken area where few tourists ventured. Beginning in 1960, a group of businessmen and politicians began to work together in order to improve the district. The National Capital Downtown Committee’s goals were to improve transportation, environmental conditions, encourage private development, expand employment, increase housing, bring more historic and educational facilities, and return the area to its original historic charm. The project came to be called “Downtown Progress.”

This new project came to inspire the change and the current dynamic that we can see today within this area. Downtown Progress sought to develop means to attract people to the region by encouraging new businesses to open up what were once dilapidated storefronts and restaurants, leading to new employment opportunities for the lower and middle class, as well as additional living accommodations for the residents of the neighborhood. The goal in  the 1960s was to create 5 million square feet of office space, increase retail employment to 23,000, and have the total employment increased to 77,500 for the downtown area.

One of the major developments that coincided with this effort was new modes of transportation that allowed Washingtonians to get to different areas of the city faster; this included a Minibus service and a tourist bus that would shuttle tourists around the Mall. The Minibus had been used during the March on Washington in 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous, “I Have A Dream” speech. Additionally, Metro Rail was born with the start of the Red Line that ran from Rhode Island Avenue to Farragut North. A new freeway system would also be developed in order to better accommodate the larger amounts of people traveling to the area for work.


From the Downtown Progress file in the Art and Artist File collection.

Additionally, an increase in educational experiences would inspire a better community for future generations. Parks, youth gardens, public programming, and public libraries would be created. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library was designed in 1968 by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and was funded by Downtown Progress. Union Station was originally planned to become the Capital’s Visitor Center, which was set to open in 1971. The National Park Service was going to create exhibits, films, and other displays about Washington, D.C., though the project was never completed as planned. Ford’s Theatre was restored to its original glory and a museum and educational center were established. Also part of the downtown planning: the Patent Office Building would be turned into an art museum (proposed in 1968) to house the National Collection of Fine Arts (which today is the Smithsonian American Art Museum) and the newly founded National Portrait Gallery.

Because the National Portrait Gallery was within the central part of the Downtown District, the Smithsonian Institution contributed ideas to the project and was kept well-informed about the various plans that were being developed. Other endorsers for the project include President and Lady Bird Johnson, Knox Banner (Executive Director of Downtown Progress), Richard Hollander (Editor of The Washington Daily News), The George Washington University, the National Park Service, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Downtown Progress was officially disbanded in 1977 and turned into a public sector of the government known as the National Capital Planning Commission. However, the efforts of the project can still be seen today as you walk around Chinatown, visit the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, shop or grab a bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants.

These papers, brochures, and meeting notes can be seen in the AA/PG Library’s Downtown Progress institutional file, part of the Smithsonian Libraries’ Art and Artist File collection. For additional information, The National Capital Downtown Committee has published other books:

-Downtown Washington: A Walking Guide

-Downtown Progress

-F Street Plaza Demonstration Project


-Kaitlyn Tanis is an AA/PG Library Intern for the summer of 2013. She is a rising junior at Susquehanna University, double majoring in History/Anthropology with a minor in Public Relations.

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Defaced Donation Leads to Exhibition Exploration

Alexandra Reigle : July 31, 2013 9:00 am : Art and Design, Education and Outreach, homepage, Staff Notes

Imagining Our Future Together: South Asia Artists Exhibition catalogue

Imagining Our Future Together: South Asia Artists Exhibition catalogue

This is a post written by Rita O’Hara who works at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library.

In February, Richard Koshalek, the Hirshhorn Museum director donated to the library a copy of The World Bank exhibition catalog entitled Imagining Our Future Together: South Asia Artists. The exhibit featured the winners of a regional art competition organized by the World Bank’s South Asia vice presidency and the World Bank Art Program. This gift of the catalog led to a reconnection with a former classmate and a field trip to The World Bank. more »


Tumblr: A slightly irreverent look at the Libraries collections

Richard Naples : July 29, 2013 9:00 am : Collection Highlights, Education and Outreach, homepage

Frederick Godman Insecta. Lepidoptera-Rhopalocera , 1879-1901

Frederick Godman
Insecta. Lepidoptera-Rhopalocera , 1879-1901

If you’ve spent any time deep in the heart of libraryland, then you surely have encountered ephemera, marginalia, stunningly beautiful bookplates, funny advertisements, and other semi-random stuff in the stacks that yearned to be shared, so we’re doing just that through the microblogging platform Tumblr. more »