National Museum of American History Announces Six Emeriti Appointments

Historians and Curators to Continue Research Projects
August 14, 2014

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has formally extended emeritus appointments to six distinguished scholars and retired members of its curatorial staff: Doris Bowman, Bernard Finn, Rayna Green, Deborah Richardson, Ann Seeger, William Withuhn and William Worthington, Jr. The six have proposed research projects and continue their work on behalf of the Smithsonian.

“Our scholars have served the museum and the public for many years and through these emeriti appointments our aim is to stay engaged with the museum and to share their knowledge and experience with our newly hired curators,” said John Gray, director of the museum.

Below are brief biographical descriptions for each emeritus staff member:

 

Doris Bowman, Associate Curator, Textiles, Home and Community Life Division

In 1959, Doris Bowman joined the textile division of the Museum of History and Technology, as the museum was named until 1980, and worked on textile storage and basic conservation. She retired in 2013 as associate curator, responsible for the collection’s needlework and lace objects and related tools, implements and machinery.

Beginning in the 1970s, Bowman coordinated about 70 volunteers, providing special programs in addition to regularly-scheduled public demonstrations and behind-the-scenes tours involving the textile collections. Bowman also collected objects and related materials that represent what was typically made or used in America, including an 18th century stocking machine and the iconic Bible Quilt made by former slave Harriet Powers.


Doris Bowman working with the National Quilt collection

 

Bernard Finn, Curator Division of Science and Technology

Bernard Finn began his more than 40-year-career with the Smithsonian Institution as a curator of electricity in 1962. Finn was responsible for a number of exhibitions, such as “Lighting A Revolution,” and helped to secure new objects for the collections, including an 18th-century electrostatic machine similar to the one used by Benjamin Franklin, telegraph instruments and archives from Western Union, lasers from the 1960s pioneering era, and an 85-ton generator from Niagara Falls. For 15 years Finn has worked as managing editor with ISIS (Journal of the History of Science Society) and, in connection with the National Council of Science Museums in India, helped to establish a training program for their curators with Smithsonian assistance.

 

Rayna Green, Curator, Division of Home and Community Life

Rayna Green became a Smithsonian Fellow in 1970, conducting her dissertation research through the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History. Green came to the museum as a consultant in 1984 and became a permanent staff member in 1986, when she was appointed director of the American Indian Program.

Green produced many public programs at the museum, including performance programs on Native dance and song to sport (Lacrosse) and to symposiums on contemporary Native art, science and technology. In 1996 Green participated with the multi-disciplinary team’s efforts for American Wine History, as well as the collection of Julia Child’s kitchen and the exhibition, “Bon Appétit: Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian,” and later, the American Food and Wine History Project, culminating in the exhibition, “FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000” and in numerous related food programs.

 

Ann Seeger, Deputy Chair, Division of Medicine and Science

Ann Seeger began her Smithsonian career in 1980 assisting with the National Museum of Natural History’s collections inventory. In 1981 she moved to the National Museum of American History where she went on to become a museum specialist in the physical sciences. Seeger also served as collections manager for several large exhibitions, including “Field to Factory, Information Age, and Science in American Life.” In 2002, she became assistant chair of the division of Science, Medicine and Society and served for a year as the division’s acting chair. Seeger then served as deputy chair of the division of Medicine and Science and as supervisory curator, with sole responsibility for the Chemistry and Biological Sciences collections.

Seeger plans to work on a wide range of initiatives, such as digitizing the museum’s collections of Bakelite and Nylon objects, completing a comprehensive biotech object group for the web and producing an online biotech timeline exhibit.

 

Deborra Richardson, Chair, Archives Center

Deborra Richardson joined the Smithsonian as the archives specialist with the Duke Ellington Collection, and retired from the museum as Chair of the museum’s Archives Center. Richardson’s experience has included archival management of collections such as the African American collections and the African American music collections. She served on the governing board of the Society of American Archivists from 2009-2012 and currently serves as Chair of the advisory board for the jointly sponsored ALA/SAA Mosaic Scholarship fellows program.

Richardson has also worked to reach underserved communities and young people, most recently through two initiatives: “Documenting History in your own Backyard” and “Discovering Treasures at Your Museum.” Richardson has published articles, authored a children’s book and made presentations concerning African American music and collections and archival management issues.

 

William Withuhn, Curator, History of Technology, Transportation and Business History

After joining the Smithsonian in 1980, William Withuhn worked for 30 years at NMAH. In those three decades, he co-curated 20 exhibitions, published two books and approximately 50 articles on a variety of subjects and helped raise more than $31 million for exhibits on a wide array of subjects and for the long-term exhibition, “America On The Move.”

Withuhn advises UNESCO/ World Heritage, serves on the National Council of the National Parks Conservation Association, and he advises the Park Service’s National Historic Landmarks office. In January 2014 he was made emeritus, Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Withuhn is working with Spencer Crew, former director of the National Museum of American History, on the history of segregated rail travel for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, directing the conservation and restoration of a 1940s ‘Jim Crow’ railroad car.

 

William Worthington, Jr., Curator, Division of Work and Industry

In 1975, William Worthington, Jr., formed part of the Smithsonian team assembling the bicentennial exhibition, ‘‘1876.’’ From 1977 to 2003, he served as curator of mechanical and civil engineering. Notable additions he made to the museum’s collections include the records of the civil engineering firm Modjeski and Masters, which specialized in large bridges; the papers of civil engineer George S. Morison who was influential in the construction of the Panama Canal; and the archives of the landmark mechanical engineering company Lockwood Greene.

Worthington, Jr., has written a variety of reviews and articles on engineering subjects and authored more than a dozen entries for the multi-volume American National Biography, the Encyclopedia of New York State, Encyclopedia of New England, Encyclopedia of Urban American, and Instruments of Science. His book, ‘‘Scene by the Engineer: Remarkable Prints from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’’ is based on the museum’s collections and will be digitized as part of Smithsonian’s Collections on the Web, greatly increasing the online presence of this important collection.

 

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. We help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is currently renovating its West exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.