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Smithsonian names Lonnie Bunch as first black secretary

HISTORIAN MAKING HISTORY: Lonnie Bunch III has been elected as the Smithsonian's first-ever African American leader (Image: Jaclyn Nash/Smithsonian Institution)

LONNIE BUNCH III has been named as the first African American to be appointed secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in its 173-year history.

The director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September 2016, was elected to the role by the Smithsonian’s board of regents.

Bunch, who is the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian, is also the first-ever historian elected to the post and the first museum director to become secretary in 74 years.

He said: “I am humbled and honoured to become the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

“I am excited to work with the Board of Regents and my colleagues throughout the Institution to build upon its legacy and to ensure that the Smithsonian will be even more relevant and more meaningful and reach more people in the future.”

John G. Roberts Jr, Smithsonian Chancellor and Chief Justice of the United States, said: “Lonnie Bunch guided, from concept to completion, the complex effort to build the premier museum celebrating African American achievements.

“I look forward to working with him as we approach the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary, to increase its relevance and role as a beloved American institution and public trust.”

Bunch, 66, has spent more than 35 years working in the field of museums. He is regarded as one of the leading figures in the historical and museum community in the US.

As director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Bunch oversees the most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history.

Bunch, who is passionate about improving race representation in museum management, told The Guardian: “I just think that you’re a better institution when you have a diversity of people telling you the stories you want to explore.

““My hope is that the Smithsonian has made important strides in that area and I will keep pushing that, because I do think that if we are the place where not just America but the world comes to see what it means to be an American, then I should be able to walk into every institution, every museum, every shop and see that diversity of America.”

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