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Cynthia Chavez Lamar Biography

Cynthia Chavez Lamar is the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the first Native woman to be named a Smithsonian museum director. She oversees the museum’s three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan, and the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland.

Chavez Lamar is an accomplished curator, author and scholar whose research interests are focused on Southwest Native art and the methodologies and practices involved in collaborating with Indigenous communities. Under her leadership, the NMAI dedicated the National Native American Veterans Memorial in 2022. In 2023, she was named to Forbes' "50 Over 50" list.

Previously, Chavez Lamar served as Acting Associate Director for collections and operations at the museum. She was responsible for overseeing its collections, facilities, safety and information technology departments. She led efforts to ensure effective management of and care for the museum’s collection, which is composed of more than 1 million objects and photographs and more than 500,000 digitized images, films and other media documenting Native communities, events and organizations. Chavez Lamar also established and prioritized partnerships and collaboration with Native nations and tribes, and developed a loan program for tribal museum and cultural centers that provides training and technical assistance to enhance collections stewardship and reconnects descendant communities with the museum’s collections.

Earlier, Chavez Lamar was the Director of the Indian Arts Research Center at the School for Advanced Research; the Director of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center; an associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian and the lead curator for “Our Lives,” one of the inaugural exhibitions in the Washington, D.C. museum, collaborating with eight Native communities on the exhibition.

Chavez Lamar was a presidential appointee to the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development. She was a governor’s appointee as a commissioner to the New Mexico Arts Commission and sits on the advisory group for Indigenous North America at the Princeton University Art Museum. She is also a member of the advisory board at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.

Chavez Lamar is an enrolled member at San Felipe Pueblo; her ancestry also includes Hopi, Tewa and Navajo on the maternal side of her family. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in studio art, a master’s degree in American Indian studies from UCLA and a doctorate in American studies from the University of New Mexico. She also received an honorary doctorate from Colorado College for her contributions to the museum field.

All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Cynthia Chavez Lamar for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Cynthia Chavez Lamar speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.

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