Explore the history of America through the view of key historic objects, inventions, and exhibits in the Smithsonian collections.
Dr. Richard Kurin is responsible for the oversight of most of the Smithsonian’s national museums including, among others the American History, American Indian, American Art, and African American History and Culture museums, the National Portrait Gallery, Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Hirshhorn and the Cooper Hewitt design museum. He also oversees various Smithsonian cultural programs, museum collections and scholarly support functions, efforts to save endangered heritage around the world, and program content for the Smithsonian cable television channel. Trained as a cultural anthropologist specializing in South Asia, he is a former Fulbright fellow who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. For two decades he directed the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, which produces the Smithsonian Folklife Festival—an annual living cultural exposition on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., other major national celebration events, and programs for the Olympics. The Center also produces Smithsonian Folkways recordings and media products that have earned Academy, Emmy and Grammy awards. He is the author of several books, including Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem, Reflections of A Culture Broker: A View from the Smithsonian, Saving Haiti’s Heritage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Culture Of, By, and For the People. His latest book is The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, also the subject of a video lecture series with The Great Courses and the basis for this course.
Kurin’s scholarship and museological work have been recognized by the International Council of Museums, UNESCO, Harvard’s Peabody Museum, and the American Anthropological Association. Awarded the Smithsonian Secretary’s Gold Medal for Exceptional Service, he serves as the Smithsonian’s liaison to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the White House Historical Association and numerous other boards.
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