Nancy Yao has been named the founding director of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, effective June 5. The new museum was established by Congress in December 2020. Yao brings more than 25 years of experience managing organizations and mission-driven projects to the role.
The Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum advances the understanding of women’s contributions throughout U.S. history that have influenced the making of America. As founding director, Yao will oversee the conception and development of a 21st-century museum, including sourcing a national collection, curating permanent and current exhibitions, and creating educational resources accessible virtually before the physical museum is built in Washington, D.C.
“For decades, people have waited for this opportunity to shine a brighter light on women both famous and unsung who profoundly changed the world,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch. “Nancy’s proven experience, skill and leadership will be crucial in bringing to life the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum and enabling it to creatively tell a more robust and complete story about who we are as a nation.”
Since 2015, Yao has served as the president of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), located in New York City. She was also an associate producer at CNN International early in her career.
Yao said, “I look forward to partnering with colleagues to leverage the Smithsonian’s magnificent portfolio of museums, educational resources and research—and its incomparable collections. Museums play a critical role at the nexus of scholarship and public access. Creating voice for the stories of American women will take intentional conversations, creative inputs and energetic curation.
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