Anacostia Community Museum Launches Augmented Reality Tour of Southwest DC |  Smithsonian Institution

Anacostia Community Museum Launches Augmented Reality Tour of Southwest DC | Smithsonian Institution

“Before the Bulldozers: Historic Southwest DC Exposed” is a new app-based walking tour from the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum that guides users through the historic Southwest Washington, DC district and the story of its redevelopment turbulent. As part of the museum’s year-round focus on housing justice, “Before the Bulldozers” recalls the Southwest community – and its displacement – in vivid detail. The free app uses location-based storytelling, augmented reality, and immersive audio to examine broader housing inequality issues through the lens of Southwest.

Visitors can download the “Before the Bulldozers” app for iPhone and Android devices from the museum’s website. Users should bring a pair of headphones for the best experience and start the tour at Waterfront Tube Station, as the app is GPS-enabled on site. A 45-minute video version of the tour is available on the museum’s website for people to join the experience remotely. Washington-area students can participate in this program thanks to Google, which has donated 100 Google Pixel phones for pre-arranged school tours.

Beginning in 1950, Southwest became one of the nation’s first and largest neighborhoods targeted for “urban renewal,” a process in which the federal government razed schools, homes, and places of worship to create a development space by claiming eminent domain. In the Southwest, urban renewal aimed to modernize the neighborhood, but disproportionately displaced more than 20,000 African Americans. As a result, the new development leveled much of the Southwest and destroyed a close-knit, multi-generational African-American community. Similar results of urban renewal have become commonplace in American cities after the destruction of the Southwest community.

Today’s Southwest neighborhood is unrecognizable to former residents. As the neighborhood experiences a current economic boom and struggles to keep its affordable community intact, “Before the Bulldozers” offers lessons from the not-so-distant past.

“‘Before the Bulldozers’ gives audiences eyes and ears to the historical stories that shaped Washington, DC,” said Melanie Adams, director of the Anacostia Community Museum. “By moving through the South West neighborhood, seeing how the area has changed, and learning at what cost those changes have come, the public better understands the role that housing inequality plays in daily life. , to DC and beyond.”

Created in partnership with Walking Cinema, “Before the Bulldozers” brings to life the stories of those who witnessed, documented, and even participated in the neighborhood’s evolution. These stories come from the oral histories of displaced community members and the DC Public Library’s Joseph Owen Curtis Photograph Collection.

“‘Before the Bulldozers’ is a story that begins in the Southwest but then reverberates through communities across the United States in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Michael Epstein, founder and director of Walking Cinema. “Like all Walking Cinema projects, the story was born out of walks and conversations with residents, historians and community groups.”

The walking tour follows three characters: an amateur photographer determined to film his vanishing community, an architect whose vision of a gleaming new Southwest captured the imagination of city planners, and a current resident of the new Southwest struggling with the paradox of gentrification. . The route starts at Waterfront Tube Station and ends at Waterfront Park. As part of the tour, attendees are encouraged to enter the Southwest Branch of the DC Public Library, which features detailed resources, a small photo gallery, and a hidden surprise as part of the tour.

Guided tours are available for school groups and adults. To participate in a visit, the public can go to “Before the bulldozers” for the schedules. Registration is required two weeks in advance.

About “Our homes, our future”

“Before the Bulldozers” is part of the Anacostia Community Museum’s year-long article on housing injustice, titled “Our Hosing, Our Future.” In 2022, the museum examines the themes of housing and how racial inequality plays out in the lives of ordinary people in Washington. “Our Housing, Our Future” highlights the stories of people experiencing housing inequality. Visitors are encouraged to think critically about what makes a community cohesive, to ask how and why communities disappear, and to imagine how people can build a more equitable future. The year’s focus includes in-person and digital exhibits, community programs, and educational partnerships.

About the Museum

Founded in 1967, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum shares the untold and often overlooked stories of communities furthest from justice in the greater Washington, DC area. By celebrating stories of resilience, joy and strength, the museum inspires those who visit to translate their ideas into action. The museum will be closed from September 18 to October 31 as it prepares for new facilities. For more information about the museum, visit or follow the museum on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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