Summer Centered: Nhi Nguyen ’18 Works with the Smithsonian’s First Community Museum
At the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, the anthropology major and museum studies minor is learning about and reaching out to the southeastern D.C. community.
While the name “Smithsonian” may invoke images of large, sprawling buildings along the National Mall filled with archaeological finds or model spaceships, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) has a more local (if no less monumental) mission: to examine the past and present experiences of America’s urban communities. This summer, sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), Nhi Nguyen ‘18 is helping to further that crucial mission on a two-month internship with the ACM’s education department.
“I'm interested in the complex spaces that museums hold,” explained Nguyen, an anthropology major and museum studies minor. “They have the power to include and exclude culture and get to pick and choose who their audiences are and what they want their audiences to know… With that, I believe that the field of museum education is a way to mitigate that inclusion and exclusion and work with the public in a more personal and direct way.”
Nguyen is creating collaborative partnerships for the museum with local universities and organizations, specifically those that focus on the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community. While she researches partners and lays the groundwork for upcoming programming, she hopes to make ACM an inclusive space that lets a diverse set of community voices speak for themselves.
“I'm excited to work with different organizations to create these community events for the ACM, particularly since I will be working on the API/API American experience, something that is central to my own identity,” said Nguyen, an employee at the Office of Multicultural Awareness, a former Peer Awareness Facilitator head in the Customs program, and an upcoming Student Resource Person with the Tri-Co Summer Institute.
Some of the ACM’s community events have included a symposium on eco-feminism, discussions of the city’s civil rights movement history, and various movie screenings. Consistent with its mission, the museum tailors events to its surrounding community, making it unique for a Smithsonian institution (its other museums tailor programming to outside visitors rather than nearby residents), and rare for a museum at large.
Nguyen’s summer position follows a year-long local internship with the Penn Museum, where she also worked in the education department. With a new museum, new material, and a new community, she hopes to build on what she has learned about the intersections of museums, social justice, and social activism.
“I think the ACM really bridges the theoretical and practical things I've learned while at Haverford and gives me the chance to use those skills in a professional context,” she said.
Nguyen looks forward to incorporating her experiences into her upcoming senior thesis, where she is considering exploring the question of if and where museums can enter into conversations of community engagement and activism.
-Michael Weber ’19
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.