The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Thursday, November 26, 2015

Smithsonian picks paleontologist to lead Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
Kirk Johnson, a paleontology expert who led a major excavation for ice age fossils of mammoths and mastodons in Colorado is being named the next director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington. AP Photo/Forrest Gibson, Smithsonian.

By: Brett Zongker, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP).- A paleontologist who undertook a major excavation of ice age fossils of mammoths and mastodons in Colorado was named the next director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on Thursday.

Kirk Johnson, currently chief curator and vice president of research at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, will take command of one of the nation's most visited museums in late October.

As the Smithsonian's largest museum on the National Mall, the natural history museum has about 300 resident scientists and holds more than 126 million specimens and artifacts, making it the largest natural history collection in the world. It draws about 7 million yearly visitors on average.

Johnson said he is a "longtime museum guy" and that reaching so many visitors makes this a dream job.

"In 10 years in Washington, we'll see 60 to 70 million people," he said in an interview. "It's breathtaking to imagine that because really that's what a museum is about is communicating with people about the natural world."

Johnson, 51, joined the Denver museum in 1991. It draws about 1.4 million visitors a year, mostly from the Denver area. In 2010 and 2011, Johnson led an excavation near Snowmass Village, Colo., that unearthed more than 5,400 of bones of mammoths, mastodons and other ice age animals in a construction zone for a new reservoir.

The Yale-educated expert in geology and paleobotany has written nine books, including "Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies."

In May, the Smithsonian announced plans to build a new dinosaur hall on the National Mall over the next seven years, which ties in closely with Johnson's background. Businessman David H. Koch donated a record $35 million for the project.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough said Johnson's expertise in paleontology was a factor, but not the deciding one in his selection from a wide pool of applicants.

"Kirk stood out for his ability to communicate his passion about education, his passion about people learning whether they're young at heart or just a young person," Clough said. "I know he's interested in using digital outreach as a means to expand the number of people that museum impacts."

Beyond the dinosaur hall, the museum also plans to add an education center and a DNA-based research lab. Johnson will oversee about 460 employees and a federal budget of $68 million.

Johnson said the museum doesn't "need to be fixed, but it needs to be optimized." He was drawn by the rare opportunity to overhaul the dinosaur hall and to help the museum evolve in the way it communicates and engages people.

"The visiting audience is changing dramatically and rapidly. There's lots more competition for their time," he said. "One of the things I would love to do is take the national museum to a position of national leadership ... and help museums in general face the challenges that are coming at us."

Johnson succeeds Cristian Samper, a biologist who has led the museum since 2003 and who served as the Smithsonian's acting secretary in 2007 and 2008. He is leaving to become the president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, which includes the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo and New York Aquarium.

While Johnson is used to spending months digging for fossils in the field each year, he said he has been moving toward museum management. He still plans to visit Smithsonian scientists working around the world.

"My priority is going to be running the museum, but you can't take that shovel out of my hands," he said. "That'll happen when I die."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Today's News

July 27, 2012

Innovative and progressive Austrian artist Franz West dies at the age of 65 in Vienna

Pace London installs iconic Calder sculpture at St. Pancras, in celebration of the Olympics

Kunsthaus Zürich presents for the first time works from the bequest of Bruno Giacometti

Smithsonian picks paleontologist to lead Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Museum galleries become a treasure house of Chagall's works, including first local showing of 1957 Bible series

Diane Carroll selected as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Media Relations Manager

Saatchi Gallery brings Contemporary Korean art to a new international audience

Fine Allan Ramsay portrait of Scots lawyer John Campbell at Bonhams annual Scottish sale

Guggenheim exhibition examines Frank Lloyd Wright's first buildings in New York City

Valencian Institute for Modern Art opens exhibition featuring work by Frank Stella

Vietnamese government lends Australia its war monument to dead during the Vietnam War

Art and artifacts of the Americas on the auction block at Bonhams in San Francisco

Appraiser Caroline Ashleigh joins Heritage Auctions as consignment director

Art Students League of New York and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation install 'BioMask'

Technical innovations shed new light on archaeology

Chrysler Museum adds John Henry sculpture to its collection

Heritage Auctions debuts free Heritage Mobile Catalog for iPad

Accidentally on Purpose exhibition in QUAD Derby

1912 Red Sox World Series trophy to be auctioned

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- First solo exhibition by the American artist Mickalene Thomas in Belgium opens at Galerie Nathalie Obadia

2.- Israel accidentally finds ancient mosaic that served as pavement for a courtyard in a villa

3.- The address of Johannes Vermeer's the Little Street discovered by Rijksmuseum curator

4.- The nine lives of Russia's Hermitage cats that root out unwanted guests: Rodents

5.- Robbers make off with masterpieces by Rubens and Tintoretto from museum in Verona

6.- 17th century letters at Museum of Communication reveal refugees 'sense of loss'

7.- New museum dedicated to the artist Mu Xin opens in Zhejiang Province, China

8.- Who are the most prolific art collectors in the US today?

9.- Rubens House brings newly discovered study for a portrait by Van Dyck to Antwerp

10.- "The Nude in the XX and XXI century" curated by Jane Neal opens at Sotheby's S/2 London

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Social Network Manager and Translator: Norma Cristina Pérez Ayala Cano

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site