Ngaire Blankenberg has been named director of the Smithsonians National Museum of African Art
, effective July 6. A consultant for museums and cultural destinations around the world, Blankenberg brings rich experience finding innovative ways to connect cultural resources to new audiences and a deep commitment to co-reimagining the museums of the future.
Blankenberg, a member of the African diaspora, has a proven track record in the systemic transformation of museums and cultural spaces to become more inclusive and more engaged in the community and society around them.
The National Museum of African Art embodies the Smithsonians mission to foster understanding, inspire dialogue and bring people together irrespective of language, culture or border, said Lonnie Bunch, the Secretary of the Smithsonian. Ngaires leadership and experience will be invaluable in using the museums unparalleled collections and scholarship of African Art to further our reach, diversify our audiences and have a more profound impact on the nation and world.
Museums are institutions that carry a lot of systemic baggage from their colonial origins, but they are vital public spaces to reconsider how we connect and contend with one another and the planet, and where we can redefine, heal and reconcile, Blankenberg said. The National Museum of African Art sits physically in a city with one of the biggest populations of African peoples in the U.S. Digitally it reaches far into the diaspora. I am so grateful for the trust being placed in me to continue to care for, build, interpret and share NMAfAs fantastic collection, particularly in this new era of U.S.-African relations.
As a consultant, Blankenberg has advised clients on strategies for decolonization, concept development, operations and business planning, programming, stakeholder and public engagement and more. Her recent consulting clients include the National Gallery of Canada, Superblue , Museum and Archive of the Constitution at the Hill (Johannesburg), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, MEGMusée dethnographie de Genève, Olympique de Marseille football club and other global and local institutions.
In 2017, Blankenberg served as the head of content and strategy for Kossmanndejong, an Amsterdam-based design agency where she helped museum clients shape their interpretive approach to exhibitions, strategic planning, new business development and content development. Previously, she spent eight years (20082016) at Lord Cultural Resources as a principal consultant. From 2015 to 2016, she served as the director of Lord Cultural Resources in Europe.
In addition to her extensive work consulting for museums and cultural heritage sites, Blankenberg is a TV and documentary producer, public speaker and a published author.
Blankenberg holds a Master of Arts in media and cultural studies from the University of Natal, in Durban, South Africa, and a bachelors degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
She succeeds Augustus Casely-Hayford, who was director of the museum until March 2020. Deborah Mack from the Smithsonians National Museum of African American History and Culture has served as the interim director of the museum.