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If you really want to learn about someone’s most intimate experiences, a diary is a great place to start. But instead of mining Prince George’s County resident Adam Francis Plummer’s diary for personal details, curators at the Anacostia Community Museum used it to learn what life was like on a Maryland slave plantation in the years before the Civil War. (Plummer worked on George Calvert’s Riversdale plantation from the age of 10 until Maryland ended slavery in 1864.) After Plummer died in 1905, his daughter Nellie continued to update his diary with family happenings, including her brother Henry’s founding of the Bladensburg Burial Society, an organization that provided financial and social support for members following the death of a loved one. The museum uses the diary’s most compelling stories as the basis for its newest exhibition, which tells of the family’s past, as well as the story of Prince George’s County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through words and photos. The suburbs that now feel so close appear completely foreign. The exhibition is on view daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., to Dec. 27, at the Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE. Free. (202) 633-4820. anacostia.si.edu.

Image courtesy of Nora Lockshin, Smithsonian Institution Archives and Anacostia Community Museum