The Academy awards two of our own

Two museum directors join the ranks of one of the oldest and most prestigious learned societies in the United States.



Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Elizabeth Broun, the director of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum from 1989 to 2016, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing—and opportunities available to—the nation and the world. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies in science, engineering, and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts, and education; and American institutions and the public good.

Members of the 2017 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur Fellows; Fields Medalists; Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients; and Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award winners. The full list of the 237th class of new members is available at www.amacad.org/members.

Portrait of Bunch, bookcase in background

Lonnie G. Bunch, III, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

Before his July 2005 appointment as founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened Sept. 24, 2016, on the National Mall, Lonnie Bunch served as the president of the Chicago Historical Society (2001–2005). There, he led a successful capital campaign to transform the Historical Society in celebration of its 150th anniversary, managed an institutional reorganization, initiated an unprecedented outreach initiative to diverse communities and launched a much-lauded exhibition and program on teenage life titled “Teen Chicago.”

A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from the black military experience, the American presidency and all-black towns in the American West to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums. Lectures and presentations to museum professionals and scholars have taken him to major cities in the United States and many nations abroad, including Australia, China, England, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and Sweden.

Until her retirement in 2016, Elizabeth “Betsy” Broun was responsible for the nation’s premier collection of American art and major exhibition, research, publication, education and digital media programs. During Broun’s tenure at the American Art Museum, she successfully completed ambitious fundraising campaigns to renovate and enhance the museum’s two National Historic Landmark buildings—the museum’s main building located in the heart of a revitalized downtown cultural district and the Renwick Gallery, located steps from the White House in the heart of historic federal Washington.

Portrait of Broun

Elizabeth Broun, Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum from 1989 to 2016, in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard.

Broun came to Washington in 1983 as chief curator and assistant director of the museum, following seven years as a curator and interim director at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas in Lawrence. She has served as director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, since August 1989.


Posted: 24 April 2017
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.