Skip navigation
Share this page
Credit: Michaele Barnes, Smithsonian

Credit: Michaele Barnes, Smithsonian

Press Release

Melanie A. Adams Director of Anacostia Community Museum

Melanie A. Adams is the director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum. With more than 25 years of community engagement experience in museums and higher education, she is dedicated to bringing stakeholders together to address relevant community issues.

Previously, beginning in 2016, Adams served as deputy director for learning initiatives, at the Minnesota Historical Society. She led efforts at the society to develop strategic partnerships, audiences and resources within local communities. As deputy director, she managed 26 historic sites and museums throughout Minnesota. During her tenure, she created the community outreach department to provide partnerships and programs outside the museum walls.

Adams was the managing director of the Missouri Historical Society for 11 years (2005−2016) where she oversaw more than 700 St. Louis community programs annually, including events with more than 100 community partners. Her work focused on addressing the cultural and social concerns of the St. Louis community.

Adams was president of the Association of Midwest Museums from 2014 to 2016, and she currently serves on the council of the American Association for State and Local History. As a facilitator of workshops on topics related to museums and race, she helps professionals understand barriers to connecting with diverse audiences.

Her past work has focused on racial inequality in education. Appointed by the St. Louis mayor in 2007 to the Special Administrative Board of St. Louis Public Schools, she worked for nine years with students, staff and the public to help the district regain accreditation. Adams has received numerous accolades for her community work; she was named a St. Louis NAACP 100 Community Leader in 2009 and the Royal Vagabonds Foundation Extraordinary St. Louis Trailblazer in 2014.

Adams holds a bachelor’s degree in English/African-American studies from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in education from the University of Vermont and a doctorate from the University of Missouri St. Louis in educational leadership and policy studies.

She succeeds Lori Yarrish, who was the director of the museum from December 2017 until her death in August 2018. Lisa Sasaki, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, served as interim director.

About the Museum: The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (original name) was established in a converted Southeast Washington movie theater in 1967 to bring the Smithsonian off the National Mall and into a local, inner-city environment.

In 2006, the name was changed to the Anacostia Community Museum. Exhibitions, collections and public programs examine contemporary themes through the eyes of diverse community members. The museum’s collections consist of objects and archival materials that document urban communities and the lives of urban residents, from home life and everyday activities to the community-building efforts of artists, activists and others.

While closed for renovations though mid-October, the museum is offering “Offsite and In the City,” an initiative that includes satellite locations of the exhibition “A Right to the City” at branches of the D.C. Public Library and complementary public programs at venues throughout the District.

For more information, call (202) 633-4820; for tours, call (202) 633-4844. Website:

Media Only:
Marcia Baird Burris (202) 633-4876; (202) 320-1735 (cell);
Linda St.Thomas (202) 633-5188;

Media Website:;

Note to editor:Images for publicity can be obtained from Also visit the museum website at for the calendar of public programs associated with the exhibitions.