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Current and Upcoming Projects

Manor house in Southeast Washington, ca. 1863, used as the headquarters for a Cavalry camp during the Civil War Folkloric dancers at the Panamanian Independence party at L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC; November 2, 2013 The American Civil War Museum's Female Reenactors of Distinction appear in period costumes for Washington's Emancipation Day parade, April 16, 2012.

Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging From Panama to Washington, DC

The United States and Panama have a long and intertwined history, from the construction of the Panama Railroad to facilitate passage during the California Gold Rush to the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal whose expansion will soon be complete. Bridging the Americas is a research and documentation project that draws on past museum collections as well as contemporary interviews and photography to explore this deeply rooted relationship. The project focuses on narratives from Panamanians, people of Panamanian descent, and Zonians—people from the Panama Canal Zone—from around the D.C. metro area, as well as U.S. citizens living in Panama, and demonstrates the strong ties, formal and informal, between Panama and the nation’s capital. Bridging the Americas complicates notions of community by exploring the ways in which these diverse area residents think about home and belonging in and in-between Panama and Washington, D.C. The title comes from Panama’s popular description as Puente del mundo, corazon del universe (bridge of the world; heart of the universe).

Connect with Ariana Curtis at curtisa@si.edu for more information.


Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington, DC: 1963–1975

Against a national background of anti-war protests, black power, and feminism, this exhibition will focus on events and challenges that transformed Washington, DC and provided the social, cultural, physical, and political bases for the city that exists today. Twelve momentous and tumultuous years, 1963-75, saw a generation take to the streets to demand greater equality, justice, and peace, and in the process change the government and alter the physical, cultural, and educational character of the nation's capital. Violence, poverty, and racial conflicts met Head Start, urban renewal, open admission, and the advent of home rule. Riots, urban renewal, and construction of interstate highways flattened large swaths of the city, while women, African Americans, Latinos, immigrants and the poor gained new visibility and political power. High culture and popular culture flourished as the city reinvented itself into a modern multi-ethnic, multi-cultural metropolis.

Connect with Portia James at jamesp@si.edu for more information.


Unconventional Gateways

This project takes a comparative look at contemporary Latino urban experiences. The Washington, DC, metro region serves as a fascinating point of entry for research. As a city whose population was formerly majority black, the history and the culture of Washington, D.C. proper, and by extension its suburbs, make it an atypical receiving settlement for Latinos. Further, the changing demographics of the area create opportunities to examine the DC metro region across different points in history. Comparatively, urban centers in the US Southeast have experienced "Hispanic Hypergrowth," meaning that the rapid growth and quantity of Latinos has outpaced that of other US cities. This increase in U.S. born Latinos, and the influx of Latino migrants and immigrants, changes the dynamics, demographics, and social and cultural life in these urban areas.

The Unconventional Gateways project diverges from traditionally researched areas of Latino settlement in order to probe issues of citizenship, racialization, and rights in atypical urban settlements. It will investigate the encounters between and among various cultural groups, concentrating on the dynamic human relationships and cultural products that emerge from Latinidad within these defined urban spaces.

Research activities include interviews, oral histories, community meetings, photographic documentation, and focus groups, and will result in a museum exhibition, publications, public programming, and other products.

Connect with Ariana Curtis at curtisa@si.edu for more information.