Posted on May 29, 2019

Lonnie Bunch to Become First African American to Lead the Smithsonian Institution

Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press, May 29, 2019

Lonnie Bunch started working on the Smithsonian’s first black museum, he had no collection, no building and one employee.

The Smithsonian Institution rewarded the founding director of the wildly popular museum on Tuesday by putting him in charge of all 19 of its museums, making Bunch the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Bunch, in an interview with The Associated Press, said his time leading the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will serve him well. “The Smithsonian is the most amazing place, and sometimes it forgets to act like it. I want it to act like the best institution in the world,” he said.


Chief Justice John Roberts, who is also the Smithsonian chancellor, said Bunch guided “the premier museum celebrating African American achievements.”


As Smithsonian secretary, he will hire his eventual replacement. Spencer Crew will serve as interim director until then, Bunch said.

Bunch doesn’t plan to meddle, but there are some things he won’t let be watered down in his former museum.

The museum “should never lose the fact that it’s using African American culture as a lens to understanding what it means to be an American,” he said. “That notion of reveling in your African Americanness but then celebrating your Americanness is really special. That, I don’t want it to lose.”


Bunch expects to lead a more active Smithsonian that gets involved in weighty issues outside of just history.

“My whole career has been about expanding the canon, making sure that African American issues, that Latino issues, that issues of gender are at the forefront,” Bunch said. {snip}