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National Museum of the American Indian Names Associate Director

Dr. David W. Penney to Direct the Museum’s New Scholarship Department

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has named Dr. David W. Penney as its first associate director of the museum’s new scholarship department. Penney, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Native American art and culture, will enhance the substance and profile of the museum’s scholarly undertakings, assuming responsibility for managing the offices of history and culture, Latin America, collections research and documentation, contemporary art and repatriation. Supervising a staff of 28, Penney will report to the director of the museum, Kevin Gover.

“As a well-respected scholar, curator and museum professional of 30 years, Penney is an ideal leader for the museum’s new scholarship division,” said Gover. “I greatly look forward to working with him.”

Penney joined the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1980 as curator of Native American Art, was promoted to Chief Curator in 1996 and ultimately served as Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections Strategies from 2003 to 2011. At the Detroit Institute of Arts Penney directed the creation of one of the finest Native American collections in the country. Spanning 3,000 years of history, it includes several masterworks from the renowned Chandler Pohrt Collection of Woodlands, Great Lakes, Prairie and Plains culture artistry, newly installed in a 6,000-square-foot permanent gallery. During his tenure, Penney also planned and designed a major reinstallation project of 5,000 objects from the museum’s permanent collection in 150,000-square-feet of renovated space.

“I am enormously honored to take on the leadership of the museum’s new scholarship division at this very exciting time,” said Penney. “I’m looking forward to working with NMAI’s curators, geographers, historians, linguists, sociologists and all the experts that make up this dynamic team to assure exceptional research in the museum’s scholarly pursuits, and in support of its exhibitions, publications and major public programs.”

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