Building a National Museum Topic of CAAS Distinguished Lecture April 4

Historian and author Lonnie Bunch will deliver the Center for African American Studies' 18th Annual Distinguished Lecture on April 4.

What are the challenges of building a national museum? Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, will speak on this topic during the Center for African American Studies’ 18th Annual Distinguished Lecture. The event takes place at 8 p.m. April 4 in Beckham Hall. A reception will follow.

Bunch, a historian, author, curator and educator, is the founding director of the national museum. In this position he is working to set the museum’s mission, coordinate its fundraising and membership campaigns, develop its collections, establish cultural partnerships and oversee the design and construction of the museum’s building. Rooted in his belief that the museum exists now although the building is not in place, he is designing a high-profile program of traveling exhibitions and public events ranging from panel discussions and seminars to oral history and collecting workshops.

“I have known Lonnie Bunch for many years, but the most important reason the African American Studies Program selected him as this year’s Distinguished Lecture speaker is because of his immeasurable accomplishments as a historian, curator, and educator and his scholarly publications and contributions to the field of African American studies,” says Alex Dupuy, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, chair of the African American Studies Program. “It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for our nation as a whole, and of Mr. Bunch’s role in its construction. His lecture on ‘The Challenge of Building a National Museum’ will give Wesleyan a unique opportunity to hear and learn directly from the Museum’s founding director and his work in its mission, design, contents, fundraising, and partnerships from the ground up.”

The museum, the 19th to open as part of the Smithsonian Institution, will be built on the national Mall where Smithsonian museums attracted morethan 24 million visitors in 2005. It will stand on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument and opposite the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

As a public historian, a scholar who brings history to the people, Bunch has spent nearly 30 years in the museum field where he is regarded as one of the nation’s leading figures in the historical and museum community.

A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from the black military experience, the American presidency and all black towns in the American west to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums. His most recent book, Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on Race, History and Museums was published in 2010. He’s spoken in Australia, China, England, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Ghana, Senegal and Cuba.  Since 2008, Bunch has served as the series co-editor of the New Public Scholarship Edition of the University of Michigan Press.  During the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Bunch served as an on-camera commentator for ABC News.

In service to the historical and cultural community, Bunch has served on the advisory boards of the American Association of Museums and the American Association of State and Local History.   Among his many awards, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Commission for the Preservation of the White House in 2002 and reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. In 2005, Bunch was named one of the 100 most influential museum professionals in the 20th century by the American Association of Museums and in 2009, Ebony Magazine named him one of its 150 most influential African Americans. In 2011, BET (Black Entertainment Television) selected Bunch to receive its BET Honors for outstanding service to American education.

The event is co-sponsored by the Russell G. D’Oench Jr. Fund of the Davison Art Center and the Department of History.