Elaine Heumann Gurian was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Museums at the Smithsonian between 1987 to 1990. In that role, she oversaw the Smithsonian’s fourteen museums, and, among her many projects, she supervised a planning project for an African American museum. Gurian then served as the Deputy Director for Public Program Planning at the National Museum of the American Indian between 1990 and 1991. She managed planning projects for the new collections facility and the new museum in Washington, D.C.
Immediately after leaving the Smithsonian, Gurian was the Deputy Director for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum between 1991 and 1994, during which time the museum opened to the public. Today, she serves as a consultant and advisor to museums across the world.
She wrote Civilizing the Museum: The Collected Writings of Elaine Heumann Gurian, published in 2006.