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Wed May 29, 2019, 03:43 PM

Lonnie Bunch Named 14th Smithsonian Director, First Black Leader in 173 Yr. History

Smithsonian's first black leader: 'There are still doors people can't get in.' Lonnie Bunch, named the 14th secretary of the Washington DC institution, aims to define Americanness through diverse stories. The Guardian, May 29, 2019.

The corridor of power at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington is lined with framed portraits of its past leaders – a succession of white men of a certain age. But change is coming to the biggest museum, education and research complex in the world. On Tuesday, the Smithsonian named Lonnie Bunch as its 14th secretary – and the first African American to hold the position in its 173-year history.

Bunch, 66, will step up from his current position as founding director of the institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The significance of his appointment is impossible to miss, especially for a body with several art galleries and museums that neighbor the White House and US Congress.

“In some ways, my career in museums has been about kicking down doors and breaking ceilings, whether it’s as a curator or as a museum director,” Bunch told the Guardian in the Smithsonian “Castle” on the national mall. “I know I was hired because I have a lot of skills but I also understand the symbolic value of being the first African American, that there are still doors people can’t get in.

“What you realise is that the Smithsonian is bigger than a museum complex so that it will have a ripple in many other ways. That is something that humbles me but it’s something that I think is important.” The Smithsonian has been attempting to change to better reflect America. During the four-year tenure of the current secretary, David Skorton, two in three recruits at director level or higher were women or people of color. Last year, Ellen Stofan, former chief scientist at Nasa, became the first female director of the popular National Air and Space Museum. Bunch, who has written extensively about diversity in museum management, wants to continue the trend.

“I just think that you’re a better institution when you have a diversity of people telling you the stories you want to explore,” he said...

More, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/28/smithsonian-lonnie-bunch-first-african-american-secretary

Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture opened in 2016, Bunch is current & founding director.

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