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Educator and historian Lonnie G. Bunch III has dedicated his career to the preservation of important facets of American history. After leading the creation and development of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Newark native will now serve as the Smithsonian Institution’s 14th secretary; making him the first Black person to be appointed to the position, NPR reported.

Bunch was selected by the Board of Regents to take on the role. He succeeds David Skorton who has served as the institution’s secretary since 2015. In his new position, Bunch will be responsible for steering the direction and driving growth for the Smithsonian as well as overseeing the daily operations of all of its libraries, museums, and the National Zoo. He began his journey with the Smithsonian nearly 30 years ago and has held several executive level positions at the National Museum of American History. When he became the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture there was only one person on staff and no funding. Through his leadership the museum—which has over 40,000 artifacts that capture the essence of the Black experience—has attracted upwards of 4 million visitors. Bunch has also spearheaded capital campaigns for the Chicago Historical Society where he served as president from 2001 through 2005.

One of his goals as secretary of the 173-year-old institution is to keep history relevant in a digital age. He wants the artifacts and information housed in the Smithsonian institutions to foster creativity and innovation. “It is important for the public to view the Smithsonian not simply as an addict of nostalgia, but as a cauldron of ideas of innovation and understanding that can be transformative for our country,” he said in a statement. “It must be an institution that is ripe with technology, an institution better suited to serve 21st century audiences, and an institution of research, of great collections, and of wonder that helps America understand itself and its world.”

Bunch is slated to officially start his new position on June 16.


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