Avoiding buzzwords like "museum," "building" and "wing," Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC. Adams yesterday announced the appointment of Claudine K. Brown as interim director of a new Smithsonian project to examine the form and content of an African American "presence" on the Mall. Brown, 40, who is assistant director for government and community relations at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, will begin her one-year position in mid-January. She will report to the Smithsonian's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Museums. "Claudine is, among many other gifted black professionals in the museum world, one of the very well-known people," said Elaine Heumann Gurian, deputy assistant secretary for museums. "She is a very visible, well-thought-of, respected member of the profession. I am delighted she has agreed to come." Brown's appointment comes at a time of considerable ferment in the museum and African American communities about the form that a government-supported African American institution for art, history and culture under Smithsonian auspices might conceivably take. As head of what the Smithsonian is calling the African American Presence on the Mall Project, she will oversee the research and analysis of issues relating to such a presence, as well as making recommendations about what form that presence might take. Hotly debated proposals have included the creation of a new free-standing museum, a wing of an existing museum and a research center. "I think there are a number of people who have really strong feelings about what should happen and what could be," said Brown, reached at her home yesterday. "One of the challenges will be to arrive at a solution that will help all those parties and find some consensus. I don't expect the task to be an easy one, but I think the project is very important and believe it is worth putting my time and energies into. "Most of the individuals with strong feelings are really concerned with quality, and when people are concerned about quality, what you have to do is see what you are capable of doing and doing well, and that helps you arrive at a solution that will be meaningful and purposeful." In addressing the issue of the form for the "presence," a forum on African American culture and history held at the Smithsonian in October recommended as a high priority the hiring of an interim staff person to direct the project. Brown's appointment is a direct result of that recommendation. That forum also recommended beginning a search for a director of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum, filling the vacancy left after the death of Director John Kinard last summer. Kinard, a vigorous advocate for the growth and expansion of the Anacostia Museum, also supported a separate African American museum on the Mall. "Whether or not the Anacostia Museum will continue to exist is not in question," said Gurian yesterday. "If you have an institution on the Mall concerned with African American issues, how that relates to all other bureaus -- and especially a bureau whose focal work it is -- of course there is a conversation as to how that parses." "There is no question on anybody's mind that the field of study of the African American experience, just taken as a scholarly discipline, has reached full maturity at a time in which African Americans themselves are expressing a desire to be fully represented in the complex of monuments and museums and what I call 'holy places' in Washington," observed Roger Kennedy, the director of the National Museum of American History and a participant in the October meeting. "And that being true, somebody in particular who is at once sensitive to the public desire and need for such expression, and acquainted with what museums can and can't do and a good scholar is plainly needed. Here at American History, we very much welcome the appointment of Claudine Brown." Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who introduced legislation last March to construct a free-standing building on the Mall that chronicles the history of black Americans, said he was pleased by the appointment. "It at least points the way to the need for a greater African American presence on the Mall," he said. Brown will be working with a committee of about 20 people, yet to be named, who are to present their findings within six months to a larger advisory committee of about 40 Smithsonian and non-Smithsonian scholars and authorities on African American history, culture and art. The advisory committee then is expected to develop recommendations for Adams and the Smithsonian Board of Regents. Brown brings both museum and political experience to her new position. She has been at the Brooklyn Museum since 1977, when she started as a school programs instructor. She received her education at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she received a bachelor of fine arts in 1971; at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City, where she earned a master of science in museum education in 1977; and Brooklyn Law School, where she received a law degree in 1985. At the Brooklyn Museum she has also been a senior museum instructor involved in curriculum development, a manager of school and community programs, and currently assistant director for government and community relations. In that job, which she feels has prepared her "more than adequately" to work on the federal level, she regularly visited members of the state legislature and the New York City Council. Her goal was to help legislators understand the impact that government funding can have on a museum's ability to carry forth its mission. She is also the author of "Something Old, Something Nubian," "Objects of Trade: China" and "Methethy, a Man of Ancient Egypt," all published by the Brooklyn Museum. Although Brown's appointment was welcomed yesterday by active participants in the discussions, caveats were also expressed. Said Tom Mack, the founder of the National Council for Education and Economic Development, a nonprofit organization established to create an independent African American heritage museum on the Mall, "After 143 years, the Smithsonian Institution is doing something in 1989 that it should have done from the very beginning. "It has so egregiously misrepresented minorities or not represented minorities at all. It is way past time for the Smithsonian to try and correct its deplorable behavior in this regard," continued Mack, who said that Brown's appointment did not change his mind that there should be an independent African American museum on the Mall not under the control of the Smithsonian. Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a participant in the October forum, and who last week became chairman of the Cultural Education Committee of the Smithsonian, described Brown's appointment as "definitely another step along the way," but cautioned, "Her success in large part will depend on the support she is given in real terms -- staffing, travel budgets, computer backup -- all the technical backup to perform well and at a high level. But she will also need psychic backup. Will she be really be treated as a peer or as representative of some separate and apart 'other' the Smithsonian is considering doing?" Said Brown of what she considers her initial task, "I think the most important thing for me to do at this point is to listen to both museum professionals, African American professionals and Smithsonian bureau chiefs to find out what the possibilities are. And ultimately to arrive at a solution that will meet the needs of the African American community and will best utilize the resources the Smithsonian has to offer."