National Museum of African American History and Culture

Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, Washington, DC



The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is 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.

NMAAHC was officially created in 2003 by an act of Congress, establishing it as one of the seventeen Smithsonian Institution museums, and its doors opened on September 24, 2016. Standing prominently on the National Mall, the 400,000-square-foot museum is operated by a staff of 205, has a $51.1 million budget, and, to date, houses a collection of over 40,000 objects.


The Office of Curatorial Affairs (OCA) serves as the core of the museum's mission developing, preserving, documenting, interpreting, and making accessible to diverse audiences the scholarship and collections of the museum through exhibitions, symposia, scholarly publications and public programs.

With a dedicated staff of approximately sixty, OCA is comprised of the following teams:

  • Curatorial;
  • Collections;
  • Conservation;
  • Digitization.

The Office of Curatorial Affairs plays a central role in:

  • conducting scholarly research designed to make significant contributions to the body of knowledge in the fields of African American history;
  • acquiring and preserving a broad historical collection which serves to document African American history, both past and future;
  • developing scholarly publications for various audiences; and
  • interpreting historical developments through public exhibitions, symposia, and programming, including digital content.

OCA also encompasses centers/initiatives, representing areas of focused exploration, scholarship, and development. These include:

  • Global Slavery;
  • African Diaspora;
  • Religion;
  • African American Media Arts; and
  • Sports.


NMAAHC seeks an aspirational leader, able to capitalize on the museum's groundbreaking launch and to help NMAAHC continue to realize its promise as a national treasure. Broadminded in his/her approach to the museum's curatorial mission, the Associate Director should be forward thinking as she/he helps the museum chart a seamless transition from an opening to operating institution.

The Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs provides the vision and direction in the planning, development and execution of NMAAHC's content driven activities. She/He takes the lead in articulating the intellectual framework for short- and long-term planning of the museum's exhibitions, centers/initiatives, and symposia including on-site, traveling and digital initiatives.

Reporting to the museum's Director, the Associate Director leads and manages the museum's curatorial, collections, conservation and digitization teams and acquisition strategies. She/He works closely with the museum's senior leaders in developing broad policy guidelines, collaborates broadly across the museum towards operational efficiency, ensures appropriate interaction with other Smithsonian offices, and represents the Museum on a national and International level.

Leading OCA's group of seasoned scholars, museum professionals, cultural and technology experts, the Associate Director must not only be committed to documenting and interpreting the African American past, but also passionate about interrogating and providing meaningful context for the African American experience in the present and future.


Specifically, the Associate Director will be expected to:

  • Continue to fulfill the vision of the museum. Continue to ensure intellectual priorities for the next phase of NMAAHC's development, and alignment of OCA's plans with broader museum objectives;

  • Lead and guide formulation of policies and standards for all curatorial, research, exhibition, collection, conservation, digitization, publishing, and programmatic activities;

  • Ensure ongoing authoritative scholarly contributions to the field, through both professional staff and visiting researchers, including: lectures, symposia, and publications to both general and specialized audiences;

  • Continue to fully embrace digital as an important channel for scholarship and exhibitions and assertively advance the development and incorporation of digital content and platforms into OCA's exhibitions, publications and other content-related scholarship/activity;

  • Lead a highly-skilled professional team; ensure that staff is aligned with NMAAHC and Smithsonian priorities;

  • Continue to advance an organizational culture that supports the agency and productivity of all staff. Provide meaningful opportunities for staff development and growth;

  • Continue to develop OCA's infrastructure its operations, financial systems, information technology systems, processes and procedures, and make necessary improvements for optimal efficiency; Oversee the development and execution of the Curatorial Affairs federal and trust budgets;
  • Serve as a highly visible thought-leader and advocate around issues central to NMAAHC and its mission; ' continue to build and strategically leverage NMAAHC's partnerships with other museums, universities, community groups, and stakeholders;
  • Play a role in critical acquisitions. Cultivate relationships with high-level donors and represent the museum at various functions.


Ideally, the Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs will have:

  • Senior level leadership responsibility with a complex institution known for quality and excellence; a record of success managing people, operations and fiscal affairs;

  • Solid credibility as a scholar, historian, and/or curator in a relevant area of African-American study; PhD preferred;

  • Experience working with a collecting institution and an understanding of the varied components of curatorial affairs, is desired;

  • Ability to work effectively with and gain the respect and support of highly-accomplished staff, and stakeholders from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives;

  • Demonstrated strong scholar contributions and presentations in the field.


The ideal candidate will be:

  • Passionate about the narrative of Black life, and fully aligned with the mission, vision and intellectual direction of NMAAHC;

  • Politically savvy and diplomatic; able to negotiate and navigate change graciously, while remaining clear, decisive, proactive, and fair;

  • A committed team builder and strong team advocate, with sound judgment, strength of character, courage of conviction, and a patience for process;

  • Persuasive and resourceful, with the instincts to anticipate and act on events that might create opportunities for the museum.

Equal employment opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status or any other protected characteristic as established under law.

To apply for this position, please forward a resume, as well as a substantive cover letter outlining your interests and qualifications via e-mail to:

Sandi Haynes and Addie Jones at SH@PhillipsOppenheim.com