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Tue May 28, 2019, 09:05 AM

Smithsonian names Lonnie Bunch III as new secretary, the first African American in the top spot

Source: Washington Post



Lonnie G. Bunch III -- the dynamic founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture -- has been appointed secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, becoming the first African American leader in its 173-year history. Bunch's nomination was approved Tuesday morning by the Smithsonian's Board of Regents. He succeeds David J. Skorton, who announced his resignation in December and whose last day is June 15.

Considered a giant in the museum field, Bunch, 66, becomes the 14th secretary of the quasi-federal institution, responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget that supports 19 museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo. He is the first Smithsonian director to ascend to the secretary's post in 74 years and starts his new job June 16.

Bunch said Monday that he was "a tad stunned" by the appointment. "I have such a profound love of the Smithsonian," he said. "I want to help the world see the Smithsonian as I do, as a place that matters, with gifted people who just want to serve their country." As for the historic nature of the appointment -- coming less than three years after the opening of the museum focused on the African American experience -- Bunch said that being the first African American in the post "will open doors for others."

"We are happy that the first African American is going to be the Smithsonian secretary," said David Rubenstein, chairman of the Board of Regents. "He was so overwhelmingly better, it wasn't really close."

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/smithsonian-names-lonnie-bunch-iii-as-new-secretary-the-first-african-american-in-the-top-spot/2019/05/27/eda5138c-80a2-11e9-9a67-a687ca99fb3d_story.html



Definitely a good pick! He has done an amazing job shepherding the National Museum for African American History and Culture (that I finally got chance to visit last November and am a charter member of) from inception to opening to general operations!

He just sent out an email too @ 10:01 am EDT -

Dear BRDS,

At 8:00 a.m. today the Smithsonian Board of Regents elected me as the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian. I am both humbled and honored by this opportunity. I’m certain that my appointment is largely attributed to the support of donors and members like you – our success together has led to this historic moment. Your commitment to the Museum has been one of my greatest inspirations and will continue to inform and motivate me in my new position of national leadership.

Nearly 14 years ago, I became the Director of NMAAHC, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. We worked together to realize the century-old dream of an African American museum on the National Mall. I have marveled at the anticipation, enthusiasm and sense of ownership our donors and members have shared for this iconic building and the Museum’s mission. Your support is why nearly six million visitors have come through our doors in just three short years to experience American history through the African American lens.

Please know I am leaving the Museum in very good hands. I have asked long-time colleague and nationally renowned historian Spencer Crew to serve as the interim Director until we can complete a nationwide search for a new Director. Dr. Crew is a distinguished historian, author and leader. A former Director of the National Museum of American History, he served on the NMAAHC’s Scholarly Advisory Committee (SAC) working with the curatorial team and me to craft the museum’s inaugural exhibitions. I am confident that he has the experience and qualifications to provide the stability and leadership that will allow NMAAHC to continue moving forward during this critical time.

Again, thank you for your continued support. Building NMAAHC with you has been the passion and honor of a lifetime. We built this Museum not by faith alone, but through our community’s steadfast belief in the necessity of this Museum. In my new role, I remain committed to this belief, as we move forward to fulfill the promise of the Smithsonian to help America better understand the challenges of the 21st century.

I look forward to your continued support.


All the best,



Lonnie G. Bunch III
Founding Director
Smithsonian Institution

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Reply Smithsonian names Lonnie Bunch III as new secretary, the first African American in the top spot (Original post)
BumRushDaShow May 2019 OP
appalachiablue May 2019 #1
BumRushDaShow May 2019 #2
appalachiablue May 2019 #3
BumRushDaShow May 2019 #4
BlueWI May 2019 #5

Response to BumRushDaShow (Original post)

Tue May 28, 2019, 01:52 PM

1. Great news, his vision, experience & background is outstanding.

Excerpt: Bunch’s first stint at the Smithsonian was as an education specialist at the National Air and Space Museum from 1978 to 1979. After a few years at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, he returned in 1989, joining the National Museum of American History, where he moved up the ranks to become associate director of curatorial affairs, a position he held for six years. In 2001, he became president of the Chicago Historical Society.

“After serving in three museums, I have touched all aspects of the Smithsonian,” Bunch said. “Hopefully, I can help to close the chasm that exists between the Castle [the centralized administrative offices] and the museums. I want to create ideas and programs that allow us to come together in ways that help the American public and the Smithsonian.”

Bunch was born in Newark in 1952 to two teachers and was raised in a predominantly Italian American neighborhood in Belleville, N.J. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from American University. He is married to Maria Marable-Bunch, the associate director of museum learning at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and the couple has two grown daughters.

In addition to his museum work, Bunch has taught at numerous universities and written books on black military history, the American presidency and museums. His book “Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on History, Race and Museums” was published in 2010, and “A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture During the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump” will be published this fall.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #1)

Tue May 28, 2019, 02:02 PM

2. He literally worked his way up from the bottom "in the business"

so he is extremely qualified for how museums operate and in this case too, getting funding for them, since the Smithsonian system is a public-private partnership.

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #2)

Tue May 28, 2019, 02:24 PM

3. Bunch has so much inside experience, he knows the institution in & out

and is literally 'Mr. Smithsonian,' in the best sense. Another senior staffer, Spencer Crew, the new interim director 'made 'history' with the prominent exhibit, "Field to Factory, 1915-1940" which opened at NMAH in the 1980s. Wonderful news, thanks again.

https://www.si.edu/Exhibitions/Field-to-Factory-Afro-American-Migration-1915-1940-3994

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #3)

Tue May 28, 2019, 03:08 PM

4. Yup.

I know Joe Madison has had him on his SiriusXM show many times over the past couple years and he really is one of those low-keyed type of guys who also knows how to manage a lot of moving parts and is willing to do the work for it too (and bring in the right people to make things happen like scheduling timed tickets and whatnot). Plus these museums host events which helps with fund-raising.

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Original post)

Wed May 29, 2019, 07:26 AM

5. Congrats!

Clearly well deserved.

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