Report of The Blue Ribbon Commission on the National Museum of American HistorySmithsonian Institution - National Museum of American History


Appendix A: Commission Methodology and Membership


On June 29, 2001, the Smithsonian Institution announced the establishment of a Blue Ribbon Commission on the National Museum of American History (NMAH). Commission members were appointed by the Smithsonian's Board of Regents. A list of members, along with brief biographical summaries, is provided further below.

The Commission was instructed to meet approximately three times over a six-month period. It has done so formally in Washington on June 29 and October 11, 2001, and on January 10, 2002. The Commission has also met via telephonic conference on November 28 and November 30, 2001. In addition, individual members and sub-groups of members have visited selectively with curators and NMAH administrators in order to pursue matters of special interest to them.

The Commission was asked to review NMAH's strategic plan, existing exhibits, and collections. It has done so. It has also reviewed audience studies and architectural design studies commissioned by NMAH. And it has been briefed orally and in writing on the following additional subjects: NMAH education programs, affiliates programs, traveling exhibits, digitization of collections, use of the web, plans for new exhibits, budgetary constraints, logistical constraints, future floor plans, policies with regard to naming opportunities and sponsorship, and internal processes for developing exhibits and determining exhibits' content. Some of the materials reviewed by the Commission are specifically referred to in the Commission Report, and are therefore included with the Report as Appendices. (The full set of materials reviewed by the Commission may be made available to interested addressees of the Report through the courtesy of the Office of the Director, NMAH.)

The Commission was charged "to advise on the most timely and relevant themes and methods of presentation for the Museum in the 21st century." In order to develop its views and recommendations with respect to this broad charge, the Commission has not only met and deliberated as noted. Members have also engaged in extensive e-mail correspondence, exchanging comments with respect to successive drafts of the Commission Report. Although the members of the Commission represent diverse perspectives, they have approached Commission deliberations with the objective of presenting a single set of recommendations that could be supported by the entire Commission. The Report with which this Appendix is associated enjoys such support.

The Commission has been assisted in all its efforts by NMAH staff. It is the Commission's view that throughout this process, NMAH staff have not only been cooperative, well informed, helpful, and professional; they have also been open, accessible, and highly responsive.

There are, of course, risks associated with a Commission proceeding on a basis that seeks consensus and depends heavily on staff support from the institution it is charged to review. The three principal such risks are interrelated. The Commission might put bold or extreme positions aside in pursuit of compromise; it might be co-opted by staff; and it might be inclined toward incremental solutions, closer to the status quo than might otherwise be the case. The Commission has been aware of such risks. It does not believe it has fallen victim to them. Indeed, it is the Commission's view that there are countervailing benefits associated with the basis on which it has proceeded. The principal such benefits are the following. The work of the Commission may be more realistic for its being informed by those who are directly involved with the institution, upon whom implementation must depend. And the development of a broadly based consensus may improve the chances that recommendations are actually adopted and implemented.

The Commission was instructed to report early in 2002 to the Smithsonian Board of Regents, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, the Under Secretary for American Museums and National Programs, the NMAH Board, and the Acting Director of NMAH. It is doing so. The reporting deadline necessarily has meant that some important subjects have been treated less thoroughly than they might have been. On the other hand, the Commission has been mindful that not long after its establishment, the Director of NMAH resigned. Recently, a nation-wide search for a new Director commenced in earnest. Clearly, the new NMAH Director must play a central role in addressing the issues about which the Commission was asked to advise. The Commission has come to appreciate that by reporting in early March, the Commission's work might help inform the search process, and thereby have more effect than might otherwise be likely. Accordingly, the Commission has decided not only to report in early March, but also to orient its Report in a manner that may be especially relevant for the selection of a new Director.

In transmitting its Report, the Members of the Commission are thereby officially terminating the Commission's work. They have, however, offered to elaborate orally upon their analysis and conclusions if the addressees of the Report wish to have the benefit of such additional commentary.

Below please see a list of Commission Members along with brief summaries of associated biographical information.

Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the National Museum of American History

Richard Darman, Commission Chair. Richard Darman is a Partner of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm, and Public Service Professor (on leave) at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Darman served in the Bush cabinet (1989-93) as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He is a member of the Board of the National Museum of American History.

Tom Brokaw. A resident of New York, New York, Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," has been the anchor of NBC news since 1981 and sole anchor since 1983. Among his accomplishments as a journalist, he can count conducting the first exclusive U.S. one-on-one interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, being the first anchor to report on human-rights issues in Tibet and interviewing the Dalai Lama, and the only anchor on the scene when the Berlin Wall fell, among many others. In December 1998, Brokaw wrote his first book, The Greatest Generation, an account of the generation of Americans born in the 1920s who came of age during the Great Depression and fought in the Second World War.

Ellsworth Brown. Ellsworth Brown was elected President and CEO of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which includes Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and the Andy Warhol Museum. He is also the President of the publicly funded, privately operated Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Dr. Brown has been a life trustee of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh since his appointment in 1993. Immediately prior to this, he had been director of the Chicago Historical Society since 1981. Brown was president of the American Association of Museums from 1990 to 1992 and has chaired the Association's nominating committee and its governance task force. He was a Museum Assessment Program visitor and continues to chair and serve on visiting committees for the AAM Accreditation Commission. He has lectured and spoken often on museum issues to national conferences and symposia.

Sheila P. Burke (ex officio). Sheila P. Burke, MPA, RN, FAAN, is the Smithsonian's Under Secretary for American Museums and National Programs. She began work on June 2000. Before joining the Smithsonian Institution, Burke was executive dean and lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. She served as the chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole from 1986 to 1996 and was elected to serve as secretary of the Senate in 1995. Burke served as deputy chief of staff to the Senate Majority Leader from 1985 to 1986, as deputy staff director of the Senate Committee on Finance from 1982 to 1985, and as a professional staff member of the committee from 1979 to 1982.

Spencer R. Crew. Spencer R. Crew, Ph.D. is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. As a member of the National Museum of American History's staff, Dr. Crew curated the exhibition, "Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940." Dr. Crew was named acting director of the National Museum of American History in 1992 and in 1994 was appointed its director. During Dr. Crew´s tenure, numerous exhibitions opened, including "Piano 300," "Fast Attacks and Boomers: Submarines in the Cold War," "Preserving the Star-Spangled Banner, The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem," "Within These Walls...," and "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden." Dr. Crew served as one of the curators on the "American Presidency" exhibition.

Loni Ding. Loni Ding is a veteran independent filmmaker, television producer and university instructor with nearly 30 years experience creating prize winning programming designed for a broad viewing audience. Focused on creating public history, she has produced more than 250 broadcast programs, including five series, and four primetime specials for US public television and international broadcast on wide ranging subjects: children's multicultural series, archaeology, and Asian American history. Along with her independent productions, Ding has produced programs collaboratively for the California Historical Society, US Department of Education, San Francisco Opera Center, and KQED-TV public television. A former John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and Rockefeller Foundation Intercultural Media Arts Fellow, the San Francisco Examiner has called her "a master of her craft" and the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA, 2001) etched their 19th Anniversary crystalline tribute: "through her work, our true stories will live forever…" Ding teaches media analysis and hands-on production in the Comparative Ethnic Studies Department of the University of California, Berkeley, where she has been a part-time faculty member since 1980.

David Herbert Donald. David Herbert Donald is Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of American Civilization Emeritus at Harvard University. Among his many books are Lincoln's Herndon (1948; revised edition, 1989); Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (1974); and Lincoln (1995). He has received numerous honors, including two Pulitzer prizes for biography, the Lincoln Prize from the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College, a Christopher Award, and the Jefferson Davis Award of the Museum of the Confederacy.

Eric Foner. Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, received his doctoral degree in American history at Columbia University under the supervision of Richard Hofstadter. He has taught as a visiting professor at Cambridge University, as Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions; Moscow State University as Fulbright Lecturer in American History, and Oxford University as Harmsworth Professor of American History. Professor Foner's publications have concentrated on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history, and the history of American race relations. Dr. Foner has also served as president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians.

Diane Frankel. Diane Frankel is program director for children, youth, and families at the James Irvine Foundation located in San Francisco, CA. Prior to joining the James Irvine Foundation, Mrs. Frankel was appointed by President Clinton to serve as director of the Institute of Museum Services in Washington, D.C. from 1993 to 1999. She is the founder and former executive director of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, former dean of the School of Liberal and Professional Arts at John F. Kennedy University, former associate director of education for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and served as an outreach educator for the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Mrs. Frankel serves as a member of the Smithsonian Council.

Ramón A. Gutiérrez. Ramón A. Gutiérrez is Professor of Ethnic Studies and History, founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and founding Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego. A John D. and Catherine MacArthur Prize winner, Gutiérrez is the author of a number of books, among them When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846, Contested Eden: California before the Gold Rush, Mexican Home Altars, and Festivals and Celebrations in American Ethnic Communities. Gutiérrez was recently elected to the Society of American Historians, a national honor society that encourages literary distinction in the writing of history and biography. He was also a member of the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities between 1994-2001.

Neil Harris. Neil Harris is Preston and Sterling Morton Professor of History at the University of Chicago, where has taught since 1969. He holds degrees from Columbia, Cambridge, and Harvard Universities, and chaired the Smithsonian Council for part of the 1980s and 90s. A former Chairman of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies, and a trustee of various libraries and museums, Harris has been a Getty Scholar and Guggenheim Fellow. His teaching and writings focus upon the evolution of American culture, high and low, and its supporting institutions.

K. Tsianina Lomawaima. K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Creek/Cherokee) is Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. Professor Lomawaima has written extensively on American Indian education, including the books They Called it Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School (1994, University of Nebraska Press: 1993 North American Indian Prose Award, 1995 American Educational Association's Critics' Choice Award) and Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences (2000, Heard Museum) with B. Child and M. Archuleta, as well as articles in professional journals such as Harvard Educational Review and American Ethnologist. She also has co-authored, with David Wilkins, Uneven Ground: American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Law (2001, University of Oklahoma Press). She has served as a proposal and fellowship reviewer for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Udall Foundation.

Roger Mudd. Roger Mudd left academe with a Master's Degree in history for a 50 year long career in journalism. He began with The Richmond, VA, News Leader. For more than 30 years he covered Congress and Politics for CBS News, NBC News and the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour on PBS. After teaching at Princeton and Washington and Lee, he returned to television as the documentary host for The History Channel.

Don T. Nakanishi. Don T. Nakanishi is the Director and Professor of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. A political scientist by training (BA, Yale, 1971; PhD, Harvard, 1978, both in political science) he is the author of over 80 books, articles, and reports on the political participation of Asian Pacific Americans and other ethnic and racial groups in American politics; educational policy research; and the international political dimensions of minority experiences. A former national president of the Association of Asian American Studies, as well as co-founder of the interdisciplinary Amerasia Journal, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Civil Liberties Public Education Board, which administered grants for public education and research activities relating to the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, which provided for a national apology and monetary payments to the surviving Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066.

Chet Orloff. Chet Orloff is Director Emeritus of the Oregon Historical Society and Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the Portland State University. A former teacher (1972-75) in Afghanistan, he founded and edited the journal Western Legal History and was senior editor of the Oregon Historical Quarterly. He has been active in museum and historical agency affairs since 1970 at the regional and national level and now operates Oregon History Works, advising and consulting in historical interpretation and public history.

Marc Pachter (ex-officio). Marc Pachter, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, first joined the Gallery staff in 1974, serving as chief historian and assistant director. An author and editor with a particular interest in cultural history and biography, Pachter is regarded as the Smithsonian's "master interviewer." He was the Smithsonian's deputy assistant secretary for external affairs from 1990 to 1994, overseeing Smithsonian magazine, SI Press, and membership and development programs. Later, he was appointed counselor to the Secretary, with oversight of electronic media issues, chairing the institution's 150th anniversary, and facilitating key international partnerships. He was appointed director at the National Portrait Gallery effective July 2000. In September 2001, Mr. Pachter was asked by the Secretary of the Smithsonian to assume the position of Acting Director of the National Museum of American History, Behring Center while continuing to serve as the Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

William F. Russell. William F. Russell was voted by Sports Illustrated and HBO Sports as "the greatest winner of the 20th century." No one in any sport has ever equaled the achievements of William F. Russell including 11 world championships in 13 seasons, two NCAA championships, Olympic gold medal, six time NBA Most Valuable Player and 12 time All-Star. Mr. Russell was also the first African-American coach in any professional sports. Russell and his team are credited with creating the modern game of basketball. In 1987 as part of the NBA's 50th anniversary, Mr. Russell was also selected as "the most dominant player in history of the NBA." Mr. Russell's time is now divided between being a motivational speaker, a sports commentator, an advocate for mentoring and as an author. In 1969 Go Up for Glory became his first best seller. That was followed in 1979, when Second Wind: the Memoirs of an Opinionated Man was published and also became a best seller. In April, 2000, he was the subject of the HBO Documentary "Bill Russell: My Life, My Way" which was nominated for an Emmy award and in May, 2001 he published his third book, Russell Rules…Eleven Lessons in Leadership from The 20th Century's Greatest Winner which was on the NY Times best seller list for 12 weeks.

Richard Norton Smith. Noted presidential historian and award-winning author Richard Norton Smith has been named director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. Smith is a nationally recognized authority on the American presidency and a frequent guest on PBS' News Hour with Jim Lehrer. He has written or collaborated on eight books, three of them with Dole. He was the executive director of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation in Grand Rapids, Mich., and previously served as director of the Ford, Reagan, Hoover, and Eisenhower presidential libraries.

John Kuo Wei Tchen. John Kuo Wei Tchen is an historian and cultural activist. Tchen is currently the founding director of the Asian/ Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute at New York University, Associate Professor in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study and Associate Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Before going to NYU, Tchen was director of the Asian/American Center at Queens College of the City University of New York, an associate professor of the Department of Urban Studies at Queens College, and on the Ph. D. faculty in Sociology at the Graduate Center (CUNY). In 1980, he and Charles Lai co-founded the New York Chinatown History Project ,which has enabled the largest Chinese settlement outside of Asia to document and explore and share its 160-year-long history. It was recently renamed the Museum of Chinese in the Americas.

Charles H. Townes. Charles H. Townes was a staff member of Bell Laboratories from 1939-1947, then successively Associate Professor of Physics, Professor, and Chairman of the Physics Department at Columbia University between 1948 and 1961. In 1959-1961, he was in Washington as Vice-President and Director of Research of the Institute for Defense Analysis. He was Provost and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1961-65, and University Professor at the University of California from 1967 to the present. In July 1986, he became University Professor Emeritus, and in 1994, Professor in the Graduate School. Dr. Townes' principal scientific work is in microwave spectroscopy, nuclear and molecular structure, quantum electronics, radio astronomy and infrared astronomy. He holds the original patent for the maser and with Arthur Schawlow, the original laser patent. He received the Nobel Prize in 1964 "for fundamental work in quantum electronics which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle."

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is one of the nation's foremost historians of early America and a recognized pioneer in the field of women's history. Ulrich is currently the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University and serves as director of the Charles Warren Center for American Studies. Her second scholarly manuscript, A Midwife's Tale, a meticulous reconstruction of the world of colonial Maine midwife Martha Ballard based upon Ballard's journal, garnered many honors including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for History. PBS aired a documentary, "A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard," based upon Dr. Ulrich's work. Her latest work, The Age of Homespun, recreates the history of early New England through close study of museum artifacts.

G. Edward White. After a clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and a year as a visiting scholar at the American Bar Foundation, G. Edward White joined the Virginia law faculty in 1972. From 1990 to 1992, he was the Sullivan & Cromwell Research Professor, and from 1994 to 1997 the E. James Kelly Research Professor. He also has been a Guggenheim Fellow, twice a senior fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Law Institute. Of Dr. White's nine published books, four won American Bar Association Gavel Awards, one received the James Willard Hurst Prize, the American Historical Association's Littleton-Griswold Prize, the Scribes Award, and the Order of the Coif's Triennial Book Award from the Association of American Law Schools.

Don Wilson. Don Wilson has held a variety of administrative positions in both state and federal historical agencies. He served as Archivist at the Kansas State Historical Society from 1967 to 1969. In 1978 he was appointed the Associate Director of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison, WI, a post we held until 1981. He then became the first Director of the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum in Ann Arbor, MI from 1981 to 1987. In 1987 President Regan nominated him to be the 7th Archivist of the United States and he was sworn in to that office in December 1987. In 1993, Dr. Wilson left the nation's capital to assume the position of Executive Director of the George Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. He is currently President of Don W. Wilson and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in the management of non-profit institutions, located in Staunton, VA.

Note: The composition of the Commission changed slightly between the time when its membership was originally announced and the time when the Commission reported. Three members found that they were unable to participate sufficiently, and concluded that they should withdraw. A fourth member, Spencer Crew, resigned as Director of NMAH in September 2001. Until that point, he had been an ex officio member of the Commission. Upon relinquishing his official position with NMAH, he was appointed as a regular member. Following Spencer Crew's resignation as Director, Marc Pachter was named Acting Director of NMAH, at which point he became an ex officio member of the Commission.

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