Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community

Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community, a unique exhibition of photographs at the Library of Virginia, celebrates the extraordinary cultural diversity found within a single community in Northern Virginia. Columbia Pike originated in the 19th century as a toll road connecting rural Virginia with the nation’s capital. Today, the Columbia Pike corridor is one of the most culturally diverse communities in the nation, and possibly in the world. More than 130 languages are spoken in Arlington County, with the densest concentration along the Pike. Unlike in many parts of the world, or even in our own country, however, the stunningly diverse group of people—representing every continent—who live and work there do so in relative harmony.

Columbia Pike Documentary Project photographers, whose personal connections to the community allowed them to capture the strength, pride, resilience, elegance, and beauty of so many overlapping cultures, created the works on view. More than 70 of the thousands of photographs transferred to the Library of Virginia’s collections this spring are highlighted in Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community. The exhibition also includes information about the neighborhood, the residents, and the photographers themselves. As the nation seems more divided than ever, this collection shows how one community is making diversity work.

Merchants on Columbia Pike boasted about the quantity of stores and free parking in advertisements of the 1950s. (Northern Virginia Sun, 1957)

Learn more about this important project on the Columbia Pike Documentary Project blog and Facebook pages.

Read the UncommonWealth blog post about this area and this exhibition.

Find out more in the Library’s Broadside summer 2021 issue.

Watch the Library of Virginia virtual panel discussion with some of the photographers.

Lloyd Wolf and Sushmita Mazumdar both give their own insights on Columbia Pike’s history, culture and on becoming photographers of its legacy with these In The Gallery videos.

Buy the related exhibition books, Transitions and Living Diversity from the Virginia Shop.