Deputy Director – National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Smithsonian Institution

Washington, DC

About National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Smithsonian Institution (SI) is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 21 museums and the National Zoo – shaping the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., NMAAHC was established by an Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 40,000 artifacts with nearly 250,000 individuals becoming members. From its inception, NMAAHC has elevated the curation, study, and presentation of African American history. The Museum has hosted more than 8 million visitors and 21 million virtual visitors to its website, world-class online programming, Searchable Museum, and virtual access to its collections. Through the current Living History campaign and expanded technologies, the Museum hopes to reach every corner of the digital world, reexamining the past and connecting history to the issues of today.

NMAAHC is a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience—what it means to their lives, and how it helped us shape this nation. The primary purpose of NMAAHC is to acquire, maintain and preserve objects which document social, cultural, political, military, technological and scientific developments in the United States related to the African American experience; to conduct scholarly research designed to make significant contributions to the body of knowledge in the field of African American history; to publish findings for both scholarly and general audiences; and to interpret historical developments through public exhibits and programs as well as digital content.  

In support of NMAAHC’s broad mission, the Museum’s diverse education services and publications provide access to learning often empowering adult learners, educators, students, and pre-K audiences to better understand themselves, their communities, and the world.  Designed to inspire and cultivate a passion of lifelong learning, education services publications, and programming provides opportunities to learn diverse narratives of history, practice perspective-taking, and hone other historical thinking skills facilitated through online and in-person programs. Through the Museum’s online resources, educators have access to a variety of learning toolkits, reading resources, and learning labs. Early childhood education offers in-person and online resources including the ‘Joyful ABC Activity Booklets’ a Series of Interactive Books Designed for Infants and Toddlers and Early Learners Ages 3 – 5.  

On the fifth anniversary of its historic groundbreaking on the National Mall, the Smithsonian’s NMAAHC launched an ambitious ‘Living History’ campaign to ensure the future of the museum for generations to come. The Living History campaign aims to support various initiatives among them Social Justice, Scholarship and Research, and Community and Collaboration. By 2024, the museum seeks to raise $350 million for an endowment to continue support for research, programming, digital initiatives, exhibitions, collections care and acquisitions, with this effort well underway.

The Museum maintains a highly visible presence on the national stage, garnering notable levels of public engagement and media coverage. It remains one of the hottest tickets in town, regularly running out of free timed passes over a month in advance. NMAAHC also boasts the highest “dwell time” at the Smithsonian and among museums across the world, with many visitors spending 4+ hours exploring the museum’s exhibitions and offerings.

For more information on the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), please visit the museum’s website.

Role Summary
Reporting to the Museum’s Director, Kevin Young, the Deputy Director will be responsible for assisting and collaborating in overall planning, development, and management of all the activities of the Museum. Inherent in this responsibility is leading the offices of Education and Publications. This new leader will be challenged to partner and cultivate an environment of learning and engagement across the Smithsonian museums. The Education department currently has a budget of $3.8 million which includes salary and benefits for 20 staff. Anticipated increased spending is planned for fiscal year 2023 for initiatives set to premier in 2023, the budget will trend closer to $4.5-5 million. 

Since the inception of the museum in 2003, NMAAHC’s publications have flourished and provided scholarship, insights, and opportunities for further curation and education. Since opening to the public five years ago, the Museum’s publications have successfully expanded to reach multiple audiences through trade publications, scholarly monographs, online offerings, exhibition catalogs, with robust sales in the Smithsonian Store and across the country. In anticipation of NMAAHC’s opening in 2016, four grand opening books were published including Dream A World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America (2016). The museum has continued to publish noteworthy books highlighting African American history and culture as well as museum exhibitions such as Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking (2018) and A is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC book (2019) for early childhood learners. Recent exhibition publications include We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity (2019) and Make Good the Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and Its Legacies (2021).  

As an accomplished thought partner with a gravitas grounded in history and the improvisational dexterity of a creative, the incumbent will have a unique opportunity to grow NMAAHC’s education and publication efforts, including digital iterations.

To download a copy of the full position profile, please visit here.

Candidate Profile
The ideal candidate will possess the following professional and personal attributes, skills, and characteristics:

Advanced degree, or commensurate experience with a cultural organization preferred. Familiarity or working knowledge of best practices in one or more of the areas of division responsibility (Education, Publications, Digital Experience, Archive and Library, Fine Art Curation, Collections Care, Conservation) a plus.    

Passion for the Mission
Fully embracing the mission of NMAAHC, the Director, and the commitment to its various constituents, the Deputy Director must be someone anchored in history with an understanding of how historic collections intersect with our contemporary world. This individual must be committed to partnering and collaborating with the Director, staff, donors, and others to advance the mission of the Museum. The ideal candidate will be a proven leader with effective communication and collaboration skills ready to engage as a Deputy Director supporting the mission of the Museum and its new Director. This leader will embrace innovation while cultivating and expanding the breadth of museum education and publications units with an eye towards expanding the Museum’s reach to various communities. The Deputy Director will have a strong work ethic, emotional intelligence, a sense of humor, and should demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning and professional growth. Additionally, this leader will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics, and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation. 

Scholarship, Collections & Curatorial Leadership
The Deputy Director will have a sophisticated understanding of, and passion for, scholarship, art, literature, and the collection and archiving of materials. The leader should have a record of digital innovation, scholarly publication, and comfort in the broader arts and cultural community to advance the mission of NMAAHC. Individuals with diverse experiences and a commitment to scholarship and access are encouraged to apply. 

Strategic Leadership and Management Acumen
Minimum five to seven years of management experience in an art museum, art-related organization, archive/library, or institution of higher learning. The Deputy Director will need to be skilled at building and leading high-performing, diverse teams with the highest degree of professionalism and guiding team members’ growth and development. The Deputy Director will need to set clear priorities, delegate and guide investment in people and systems. The ideal candidate will know how to connect the dots, influence and be a trusted partner creating a productive collaborative work environment that matches the abilities of staff members and creates opportunities for professional growth. The Deputy Director should be an independent thinker, capable of serving the Director while collaborating across other departments. The Deputy Director must have the capacity to encourage and celebrate the talents of the team while holding each team member accountable to mutually agreed-upon goals. The Deputy Director will approach the responsibilities based on a clear understanding of the strategic objectives of the Museum.

Relationships and Ability to Influence
This individual will bring demonstrated experience with project management related to presentation and interpretation of objects and issues in a museum setting. The successful candidate must build rapport and cultivate relationships across all levels of the Museum, with collaboration at the center. The Deputy Director must be willing to articulate a vision and be a strong communicator. This individual will foster trust and collaboration among team members and should be capable of managing through change with agility. The Deputy Director must be skilled at listening to and learning from leadership, staff, and volunteers. This leader should naturally inspire fellow leaders, instill confidence in staff, and be willing to lead the charge by example. 

The search committee is being assisted by Denielle Pemberton-Heard of the Diversified Search Group in this search process. The committee welcomes comments, questions, nominations, and expressions of interest. To contact the committee, please send an email with any supporting materials to

The Smithsonian is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages individuals of all backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities to consider this leadership position. The Smithsonian’s commitment to inclusivity encompasses, but is not limited to, diversity in nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability.

Categories: Job Postings