Considering Museum Work? A Conversation with Curators From the Smithsonian


Welcome to The Academic Life! In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Our guests’ career paths at the Smithsonian,
  • their work to help create a new Women’s history museum,
  • collecting BLM materials during protests,
  • creating exhibits just as the pandemic closed the museum,
  • and a discussion of their book on women’s artifacts in the Smithsonian.

Today’s book is: Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity, and Vision from the National Collection, a book that offers a unique and panoramic look at women's history in the United States through the lens of ordinary objects from, by, and for extraordinary women. Featuring more than 280 artifacts from 16 Smithsonian museums and archives, and more than 135 essays from 95 Smithsonian authors, this book tells women's history as only the Smithsonian can. Portraits, photographs, paintings, political materials, signs, musical instruments, sports equipment, clothes, letters, ads, personal possessions, and other objects reveal the incredible stories of amazing women such as Phillis Wheatley, Julia Child, Sojourner Truth, Mary Cassat, Madame CJ Walker, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Till Mobley, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta, Phyllis Diller, Celia Cruz, Sandra Day O'Connor, Billie Jean King, and Silvia Rivera. Published to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Smithsonian American Women is a deeply satisfying read and a reflection on how generations of women have defined what it means to be recognized in both the nation and the world.

Our guest is: Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp, who is the Department Chair and Curator of the Space History Department at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Weitekamp curates the Museum's social and cultural history of spaceflight collection, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles, and co-edited the ninth volume in the Artefacts series on the material culture of science and technology, Analyzing Art and Aesthetics (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2013). She is currently completing a book on social and cultural history of space memorabilia.

Our guest is: Dr. Michelle Anne Delaney, who is the Assistant Director for History and Culture of the National Museum of the American Indian. Dr. Delaney manages the Museum's research and scholarship team, and leads the intellectual program development for exhibitions, educational programming, publications, and digital scholarship; and directs strategic internal pan-Smithsonian projects, and external collaborations and university partnerships. An author and editor of several history of photography books, Dr. Delaney has also curated 25 Smithsonian exhibitions and web projects.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, the co-creator and co-producer of the Academic Life.

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You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island and neither are we. We reach across our mentor network to bring you experts about everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Here on the Academic Life channel, we embrace a broad definition of what it means to be an academic and to lead an academic life. We view education as a transformative human endeavor and are inspired by today’s knowledge-producers working inside and outside the academy. Wish we’d bring on an expert about something? DMs us on Twitter: @AcademicLifeNBN.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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