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'Charles Coco' Bayron creates a tattoo on a client’s arm at Nu Flava Ink tattoo parlor on Martin Luther King Ave SE. Bayron’s work was documented for the museum’s 'Community and Creativity' project. The museum has worked to document the history and evolution of Washington, DC’s significant but shrinking Chinatown community. Former mayor of Washington, DC, Anthony Williams, being interviewed for the museum’s ongoing Urban Waterways project. The museum organized and hosted the 106th Meeting of the Smithsonian Material Culture Forum, entitled 'In Washington, Of Washington: Documenting D.C. at the Smithsonian'.

Urban communities are primary sites at which far-reaching changes are being played out. Shifts in demographic composition; gentrification and suburbanization; encounters between ethnic groups; tensions between community development and historic preservation; efforts to protect the natural environment; loss of /and changing cultural and social traditions; rapid and significant technological change, particularly in communications technology; and increasing globalization of local economies and popular culture have a direct and immediate impact on families and individuals within the context of neighborhood and community. Cities, neighborhoods, communities, and families are the venues where history is being made and experienced on a day-to-day basis.

The museum’s research mission is to examine, document, and discuss these historical and cultural dynamics that are seen and felt at an everyday level. Museum research into issues and themes that resonate within urban communities allows residents to make links and connections between their communities and other urban centers—including pathways to solving shared issues and challenges. ACM brings scholarship and formal research to this inquiry, incorporating the memories and insights provided through first-person accounts. Documentation and research efforts are community-based and include oral history interviews, survey and mapping projects, and community-based collecting efforts.

Community Documentation Initiative

The Community Documentation Initiative (CDI) is an ongoing effort to document and make accessible to the public a wide range of original material on the social, cultural, economic and contemporary community life of urban neighborhoods. While we maintain an emphasis on the Washington, DC metropolitan area, our research and collecting activities include urban communities across the United States and around the world.

Community Documentation Initiative Blog