Wonderful Women Wednesday: Deborah M. Bretzfelder

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series titled Wonderful Women Wednesday.

For more than 30 years until her retirement in 1988, Deborah Bretzfelder worked as an exhibits designer for the Smithsonian. Throughout her career, Bretzfedler rose through the ranks and earned leadership roles as the associate assistant director for exhibits and as chief of design for exhibits at the National Museum of American History. Earlier in her career, she worked for the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits. 

Bretzfelder was the designer of notable exhibits, including, but certainly not limited to, an expansion of the First Ladies Hall in 1979, Ten Years of Sesame Street (1979), and Perfect in Her Place: Women at Work in Industrial America (1981). 

Aside from her work as a designer, she was also an advocate for Smithsonian employees. In the 1970s, Bretzfelder was on the program staff for the Museum of History and Technology TV Studio Gallery, a 1,400 square-foot space for Smithsonian employees to display their own artworks. Additionally, she served on the American Federation of Government Employees negotiating team, responsible for advocating on behalf of the union of non-supervisory personnel in the Office of Exhibits to Smithsonian management. 

Bretzfelder works on an exhibit space diorama in an office. She is wearing bold, round, black glasse

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