DC History For All: Volunteer Fair Event Summary

On Saturday, 23 September 2017, the LC Labs team joined representatives from cultural heritage organizations, archives, libraries, and historical organizations for DC History for All: Volunteer Fair. The event matched dozens of interested volunteers with opportunities to preserve Washington, D.C. history.

There are many cultural heritage and historical organizations located in D.C. that invite the public to help preserve and provide access to primary and secondary historical resources. Yet, it’s challenging to track the projects and volunteering opportunities as a whole. In response, a group of representatives from these projects gathered to craft goals for a collaboratively planned event. The main goals: to share these projects with new audiences and to engage with visitors in a welcoming environment. The volunteer fair was hosted at Anacostia Community Museum and coincided with celebrations for its 50th Anniversary, as well as Museum Day Live.

A standing young woman speaking with seated Smithsonian Learning Lab representatives

A volunteer speaking with Smithsonian Learning Lab representatives. Photo: Miriam Doutriaux, Anacostia Community Museum

We spoke with visitors seeking to volunteer, teachers wishing to connect their students with regional projects, and genealogical researchers connecting with local history. Some visitors explained that they had extra time; others noted they were new to the area and wanted to connect with the organizations at DC History for All. During the event, the LC Labs team demonstrated the newly launched Beyond Words, inviting visitors to try marking and verifying.

Group photo of 21 cultural heritage representatives

Participating D.C. cultural heritage, archives, libraries, and history organizations. Photo: Meghan Ferriter, National Digital Initiatives

Representatives from the participating organizations also met their peers and tried new projects, while others planned future collaboration and meeting up to explore overlapping collections. DC History for All: Volunteer Fair included the following organizations & projects:

View into seats and presenter in Anacostia Community Museum resource annex

A full house in the Anacostia Community Museum resource annex. Photo: Meghan Ferriter, National Digital Initiatives

Throughout the event, attendees could drop in to the Museum’s Resource annex to hear historians, archivists and others involved in cultural heritage work discuss their efforts to uncover stories and figures from D.C.’s past. Ph.D. candidate Patrick Scallen of Georgetown University is conducting a series of oral history interviews on the 1991 Mt. Pleasant Riots with the support of the DC Oral History Collaborative. Scallen described his approach and the importance of unpacking the sometimes contradictory memories of historical events. National Park Service archaeologist Dr. Mia Carey excavated the residence of Yarrow Mamout of Georgetown – a former slave, devout Muslim, financier and property-owner – and spoke to the role of archaeology as a sociopolitical action to shed light on white privilege.

Dr. Lopez Matthews of Howard University’s Moorland-Springarn Research Center discussed some of the 63 D.C.-related collections in their archive. One of the archive’s highlights is the papers of Georgia Douglas Johnson, an African American poet, lyricist, and playwright who ran a literary salon near 14th and S Streets during the Harlem Renaissance. Community historian and author Ms. Dianne Dale gave the history of the Anacostia community from the Civil War to 1967, including how the Anacostia Community Museum came to be. The lecture series ended with librarian Katie Crabb from the District’s Department of Transportation, sharing her work to crowdsource details about photographs from DDOT’s archives.

Presenter and audience in Anacostia Community Museum Resource Annex

Ms. Dianne Dale speaking about the history of the Anacostia region, from the end of the Civil War to 1967. Photo: Miriam Doutriaux, Anacostia Community Museum

New volunteers and history projects established connections, while representatives cemented a framework for future collaborations as a result of the DC History for All: Volunteer Fair. We look forward to hosting future events that highlight the history of, collections concerning, and organizations in Washington, D.C. Special thanks to Libary of Congress Event Planning for their support.

See more discussion of the event via #DCHistory4All and watch for upcoming LC Labs events.

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