Henry Louis Gates Jr., Host of PBS Series Finding Your Roots, To Appear at Smithsonian Event

June 28, 2013
News Release
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The Smithsonian Associates will present “The Genomic Journey, Searching for Your Roots” featuring Henry Louis Gates Jr., the host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots. During the program, Gates will trace the genetic histories of Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Gwen Ifill, host of Washington Week, live on stage Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Baird Auditorium at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The program, organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, is open to the public; admission is free, but tickets are required. The public may reserve tickets by calling (202) 633-3030 or visiting www.smithsonianassociates.org.

This event is the first in The Smithsonian Associates’ yearlong series of programs accompanying the exhibition “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code” at the National Museum of Natural History. Programming is made possible with grants and gifts made through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. The program series is presented in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. In his PBS series, Finding Your Roots, Gates enlists leading genealogists, geneticists and ancestry genetic testing companies to uncover the ancestry of one celebrity in each episode. This team has used historical records and genomic data to trace the genetic histories of Bunch and Ifill, who will explore the results with Gates and comment on what they have learned.

After the ancestral reveal, the program opens to a discussion on the promise and limitations of genomic research and ancestral inference genetic testing. Panelists include Aravinda Chakravarti, professor at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health; Charmaine Royal, faculty at the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and associate research professor at Duke University in the Department of African and African American Studies; and Joanna Mountain, senior director of research at 23andMe. The panel moderator is Vence Bonham, associate investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. A question-and-answer session with the audience follows.

The exhibition “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code,” a collaboration between the National Museum of Natural History and National Human Genome Research Institute, celebrates the 10th anniversary of researchers producing the first complete human genome sequence, the genetic blueprint of the human body. Visitors will explore the mystery of genomics through interactive media displays, hands-on activities and information-filled videos. The exhibition is on view through Sept. 1, 2014. For more information visit http://unlockinglifescode.org.

The Smithsonian Associates offers life-enriching, educational and cultural experiences inspired by the Smithsonian’s exhibitions, collections and research. Each year The Smithsonian Associates creates and presents more than 750 individual programs that deliver exceptional opportunities for learning and growth. Programs range from lectures on a multitude of topics to the performing arts for audiences of all ages, in the Washington, D.C., area and across the country.

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Lauren Lyons

(202) 633-8614