The founder of the Smithsonian Institution’s newest museum, which focuses on African-American history, has been selected to lead the institution’s entire system of museums and parks.
Tuesday, the Smithsonian Board of Regents appointed Lonnie Bunch as its 14th secretary, becoming the museum’s first African-American leader in its 173-year history.
The 66-year-old Bunch will guide the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, overseeing a $1.5 billion annual budget that helps fund 19 museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo.
Board of Regents chairman David Rubenstein said Bunch’s experience at three museums, reputation and fundraising skills separated him from other candidates.
The appointment comes less than three years after the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
As its first director, Bunch oversaw an 11 year effort to collect more than 40,000 items before the museum opened on the National Mall in 2016.
The museum immediately became one of Washington’s most popular attractions, drawing more than four million people in its first two and one-half-years.
George Mason University history professor Spencer Crew will serve as the NMAAHC’s interim director.