In Memoriam: Lori D. Yarrish

Lori D Yarrish
August 6, 2018

Lori Yarrish, the director of the Anacostia Community Museum, passed away August 6 after a brief illness.

Ms. Yarrish became director of the museum last December, after having served as acting director since June 2016. In that short time, she accomplished much at the museum.

She led efforts to renew and revitalize the ACM—including a refreshed mission statement and social-impact statement—and improve museum operations to align with the goals of the Strategic Plan. She wanted to redefine the role museums play in catalyzing change, creating new knowledge, and convening conversations of social importance.

Under her leadership, the museum kicked off a yearlong celebration of its 50th anniversary, which featured the exhibition, “Your Community, Your Story: Celebrating Five Decades of the Anacostia Community Museum, 1967–2017,” an open house, and a block party. The culmination of the celebration was the opening of the exhibition, “A Right to the City,” which explores the history of neighborhood change in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Yarrish embraced the ACM’s role as a community museum. She and her staff were always looking for innovative ways to reach audiences, form collaborative partnerships, and connect with communities. They increased the museum’s digital offerings and worked to bring the museum’s activities out of the building and into the community. She also reinvigorated ACM’s advisory board so it would better reflect the refreshed mission of the museum.

Yarrish holding magazine cover

Lori Yarrish at the Washingtonian magazine gala celebrating Washington, D.C.’s most powerful women in the arts. (Photo by Haili Francis via Twitter)

Ms. Yarrish also served on the coordinating committee for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and the October 2017 issue of Washingtonian named her one of Washington, D.C.’s most powerful women in the arts.

Before becoming director of the ACM, Ms. Yarrish was the deputy director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, a position she had held since 1991. Before coming to the Smithsonian, Ms. Yarrish was State Administrator of Collections and Exhibitions for the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the Banneker-Douglass Museum.

Lori Yarrish is survived by her daughter Laila and her mother Myra. Services will be held Friday, Aug. 17, at the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, located at 1636 East Capitol Street, N.E., in Washington, D.C. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m., and the service will start at 11 a.m.

Watch the memorial service held in celebration of Lori Yarish’s remarkable life, held October 12, 2018.

Posted: 8 August 2018
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.

3 Responses to In Memoriam: Lori D. Yarrish
    • Tim Smith
    • Wow everything that has been said about my dear friend and professional colleague, I applaud with celebration, as I reflect back on all my years, knowing Lori! As a college gradate of Howard University, and of the class of 1982. I share both episodes with my dear sister there and here at the Smithsonian Institution. The support and love that Lori naturally provided, I will cherish from this point on! As the Deputy chair of the Smithsonian African American Association (SAAA), I am committed to seek to establish a scholarship fund in her name, where students who are seeking internships and fellowships to work at SI … it shall be Lori Wesley Yarrish name out front, inspiring and sheltering their career path! Please join me in the efforts on making her presence known through this means.

    • Haili Francis
    • Lori Yarrish was deeply loved and widely known across the museum field. Her impact was felt in the lives of those she touched and she will be missed by many. Cheers to celebrating the life of a stellar, visionary leader who’s love for people was palpable and invigorating. May her legacy live on and her work remain an inspiration for generations to come.