Smithsonian leader Lonnie Bunch to speak at this year’s MA conference

Lonnie Bunch, the secretary of Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, is speaking at this year’s Museums Association virtual conference.

Bunch, who oversees 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centres, and several education units and centres, will be sharing his huge experience in the sector in an in conversation session on 5 November.

He became the secretary of the organisation in June 2019 following his role as the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

Bunch began developing the NMAAHC in July 2005 when he had one staff member, no collections, no funding and no site for a museum. Driven by optimism, determination and a commitment to build “a place that would make America better”, Bunch transformed his vision into a museum that has welcomed more than 6 million visitors since it opened in September 2016. The venue how has a collection of 40,000 objects that are housed in the first “green building” on the National Mall.

Before his appointment as director of the museum, Bunch was the president of the Chicago Historical Society (2001–2005). There, he led a successful capital campaign to transform the Historical Society in celebration of its 150th anniversary. His work included initiating an unprecedented outreach initiative to diverse communities and the launch of a much-lauded exhibition and programme on teenage life titled Teen Chicago.

Bunch has written on a wide range of topics, including the black military experience, the American presidency and all-black towns in the American West, as well as on diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums.

His most recent book is A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump.

In 2005, Bunch was named one of the 100 most influential museum professionals of the 20th century by the American Association of Museums.

This year’s conference, World Turned Upside Down: Exploring the Future of Museums, takes place 2-6 November and is free to all our individual, institutional and commercial members.