Dr. Richard Kurin is Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large of the Smithsonian Institution, helping guide the world’s largest museum, research and educational organization. During his 44-year career Kurin has served as the Smithsonian’s Acting Provost and for more than a decade as Under Secretary, overseeing all of the Institution’s national museums, scientific research centers, and cultural programs. For two decades he served as Director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, responsible for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and a variety of cultural educational programs including major national celebration events on the National Mall of the United States. He also served as Director of National Programs, and as Acting Director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art, and of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Kurin received his PhD in anthropology specializing in South Asia from the University of Chicago, aided by Fulbright and Social Science Research Council fellowships. Kurin served on UNESCO juries and commissions and helped draft an international treaty to safeguard living cultural heritage now ratified by more than 170 nations. He has led efforts to save heritage around the world threatened by human conflict and natural disasters. He serves on the U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee, is a founding board member of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), and co-leads with FEMA the U.S. Heritage Emergency National Task Force. He has served as Smithsonian liaison to the White House Historical Association and the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities.
Honored by Harvard University, the International Council of Museums, the American Anthropological Association, the American Folklore Society, the Cosmos Club and others, Kurin is a fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. Kurin taught at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and has authored six books including Reflections of a Culture Broker: A View from the Smithsonian, Saving Haiti’s Heritage: Cultural Recovery after the Earthquake, The Smithsonian’s History of America 101 Objects¸ and Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem.