When former Oak Parker Lonnie Bunch III left Chicago for Washington, D.C., in 2005, to lead the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, he and his assistant found themselves locked out of their own “temporary offices somewhere off the National Mall” on their first day on the job.
Fast-forward 14 years and Bunch has the master keys. On Tuesday, Smithsonian’s Board of Regents appointed Bunch secretary of the Smithsonian Institution — the world’s largest museum and research complex that includes 19 museums (of which the African-American History museum is one) and nine research centers across the globe, according to its website.
Bunch is the first African American to lead the behemoth museum and research complex in its 173-year history. Bunch will succeed outgoing secretary David Skorton in roughly a month.
“It is important for the public to view the Smithsonian not simply as an addict of nostalgia, but as a cauldron of ideas of innovation and understanding that can be transformative for our country,” Bunch said at a news conference on Tuesday, according to NPR.