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Smithsonian Institution Appoints Its First African-American Secretary

Smithsonian Appoints Its First African-American Secretary in History
Credit: Smithsonian Twitter

The Smithsonian Institution has named Lonnie Bunch III, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), its 14th secretary. The new leader is the first Black person to hold the position in the 173-year history of the world’s largest museum and research complex.

“We are thrilled to announce that our Board of Regents has elected Lonnie G. Bunch III as the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, effective June 16,” the Smithsonian tweeted. “The founding director of our @NMAAHC, Bunch brings a reputation for compelling scholarship and visionary leadership.”

Bunch is also the first historian to ascend to the secretary position and the first museum director to become a secretary since 1945. He has over 40 years of experience in the museum field. The new position will not be his first at the Smithsonian. In the late 1970s, he was an education specialist at the National Air and Space Museum. And from 1989 through 2000, he worked in the office of curatorial affairs in the National Museum of American History.

“This is an emotional moment, because the Smithsonian means so much to me personally and professionally,” Bunch, 66, said at the press conference, according to NPR. “It is important for the public to view the Smithsonian not simply as an addict of nostalgia but as a cauldron of ideas of innovation and understanding that can be transformative for our country.”

On June 16, Bunch will become the head of the day-to-day administration of the 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo and other operations within the Smithsonian.

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