Wonderful Women Wednesday: Merry A. Foresta

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.

Merry A. Foresta was the first curator of photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the senior curator of photography for the Smithsonian’s International Art Museums Division, and the founding director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative.

In 1977, Foresta began working for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, then called the National Collection of Fine Arts, and was promoted to curator of photography in 1983. Subsequently, she earned the role of senior curator of photography for the Smithsonian’s International Art Museums Division in 1992. 

When the Smithsonian sought to establish a multi-disciplinary program to highlight and create better access to its photography collections, Foresta was an obvious choice as its leader. Between 2000 and 2010, she served as the founding director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative. Under her leadership, the initiative launched the Institution's first interactive program devoted to photography at the Smithsonian.

Foresta is the author of At First Sight: Photography and the Smithsonian (2003) and co-editor of Photography Changes Everything (2012).

She earned her master’s degree from Cornell University in 1981.

Close-up, low-res photo of Foresta.  

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