Lonnie G. Bunch III Named 14th Secretary

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  • The Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents announced on May 28, 2019, that it unanimously elected Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, as the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian, effective June 16. In September 2016, Bunch oversaw the opening of the nation's largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. Bunch's election is unprecedented for the Smithsonian: He is the first African American to lead the Smithsonian, and the first historian elected Secretary. In addition, he is the first museum director to ascend to Secretary in 74 years. "Lonnie Bunch guided, from concept to completion, the complex effort to build the premier museum celebrating African American achievements," said John G. Roberts, Jr., Smithsonian Chancellor and Chief Justice of the United States. "I look forward to working with him as we approach the Smithsonian's 175th anniversary, to increase its relevance and role as a beloved American institution and public trust."
  • Bunch, a public historian, has spent more than 35 years in the museum field, where he is regarded as one of the nation's leading figures in the historical and museum communities. Bunch joined the staff of the National Air and Space Museum as an educator in 1978-1979. He left to work as curator of history and program manager for the California African American Museum in Los Angeles until 1989, when he returned to the Smithsonian as supervisory curator at the National Museum of American History. During his tenure, he oversaw several of the museum's divisions, including Community Life and Political History, eventually becoming the Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs. In 2000, Bunch left the American History Museum to become president of the Chicago Historical Society. He returned again to the Smithsonian in 2005 to direct the newly legislated National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016.
  • "I am humbled and honored to become the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution," Bunch said. "I am excited to work with the Board of Regents and my colleagues throughout the Institution to build upon its legacy and to ensure that the Smithsonian will be even more relevant and more meaningful and reach more people in the future." Bunch succeeds Dr. David K. Skorton, who served as Secretary from 2015 to 2019.


  • Bunch, Lonnie G
  • Skorton, David J
  • Roberts, John G 1955-
  • Chicago Historical Society
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • National Museum of American History
  • California African-American Museum


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Smithsonian Torch, May 28, 2019, "Lonnie Bunch III is 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian"; Smithsonian Press Release, May 28, 2019, Announcement from the Board of Regents: 14th Secretary Named

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


June 16, 2019


  • Secretaries
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Personnel management
  • Employees
  • Museums
  • History
  • Museum directors
  • African Americans--History
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees
  • African Americans


Washington (D.C.)

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