Cynthia Chavez Lamar is director of the Museum of the American Indian.


Cynthia Chavez Lamar has been named director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, effective February 14.

Chavez Lamar becomes the first indigenous woman named director of a Smithsonian museum. She has worked at the museum since 2014 and was an intern at the museum since 1994 and then an associate curator (2000-2005). She is currently the interim associate director of collections and operations.

Chavez Lamar is a successful curator, author, and scholar whose interests include Southwestern indigenous art and the methodologies and customs used in collaboration with indigenous communities.

She will oversee all three museum facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, DC, the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan, and the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland.

The Cultural Resources Center houses the museum’s collections and its curatorial and repatriation offices; laboratories and rooms for conservation, collection management, records, photographs, films, and videos.

“Dr. Chavez Lamar is at the forefront of a growing wave of Native American professionals in the museum profession,” said Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian.

“I am excited to begin my role as director of the National Museum of the American Indian,” said Chavez Lamar. “I am looking forward to leading and working with the museum staff, who are so experienced and dedicated. Together, we will leverage the museum’s reputation to support joint initiatives with partners in the United States and around the world to amplify indigenous knowledge and perspectives, to better inform the American public and international audiences about the beauty, tenacity , and richness of indigenous culture, art and history.”

Chavez Lamar is a registered member of the San Felipe Pueblo, and his lineage also includes Hopi, Tewa, and Navajo on his mother’s side of the family. She has her BA from Colorado College in Studio Art, an MA in American Indian Studies from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. He also received an honorary doctorate from Colorado College for his contributions to the field of museums.

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