Martin E. Sullivan Named Director of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

January 30, 2008
News Release
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Martin E. Sullivan has been named director of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, effective April 28.

Sullivan is the chief executive officer of the Historic St. Mary's City Commission in Maryland, a position he has held since 1999. He oversees museum research, interpretation and site preservation of Maryland's first capital (1634-1695), a National Historic Landmark. Sullivan also coordinates master planning, facility development and academic programs in public history and museum studies with St. Mary's College of Maryland.

"We're extremely pleased that Marty Sullivan will now lead the National Portrait Gallery," said Cristián Samper, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian. "With his distinguished record as scholar, academic and museum director, as well as his management experience on the local, state and federal levels, he brings a passion for reaching new audiences and looks forward to working closely with our other museums and research centers here at the Smithsonian."

"I am thrilled to become director of the National Portrait Gallery, and I'm very grateful to Dr. Samper and the search committee for their confidence," said Sullivan. "In its fabulous setting in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, the Portrait Gallery brings visitors face to face with the array of personalities who've shaped our national identity. I like to think of the National Portrait Gallery—both on site and online—as this nation's Facebook: It is an ongoing conversation about ourselves, our heritage and our hopes."

Sullivan, 63, was director of the Heard Museum, an internationally renowned museum of American Indian cultures and art in Phoenix, from 1990 to 1999. He organized international and national traveling exhibitions to such venues as the British Museum and the White House and established award-winning educational outreach programs. Sullivan led a successful capital campaign that doubled the size of the museum, secured important gifts for the its collections and created long-term partnerships with other cultural institutions and tribal governments.

From 1983 to 1990, Sullivan served as director of the New York State Museum in Albany, N.Y., and as assistant commissioner for museums in the State Education Department.

Sullivan has chaired three national boards concerned with advancing museum standards, ethics and practices: the Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums; the U.S. State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee; and the review committee overseeing compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Currently, he is co-chair of an American Association of Museums ethics task force on antiquities.

In 2006, Sullivan was named to the Centennial Honor Roll of the American Association of Museums, which recognizes outstanding efforts in advocacy and leadership.

Sullivan received a doctorate degree (1974) and master's degree (1970) in American history from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor's degree (1965) in history from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.

Search Committee
The National Portrait Gallery's search committee was chaired by Smithsonian Under Secretary for Art Ned Rifkin. The other members of the committee were Sheila Burke, former deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Smithsonian; Wanda Corn, professor of art history at Stanford University; Ella Foshay, commissioner of the National Portrait Gallery and art historian; Brent Glass, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History; Michael Kammen, professor of history at Cornell University; Daniel Okrent, chair of the commission of the National Portrait Gallery; Ann Shumard, curator of photography at the National Portrait Gallery; and Mallory Walker, commissioner of the National Portrait Gallery and president of Walker & Dunlop Inc.

Sullivan succeeds Marc Pachter, who was named director of the National Portrait Gallery in 2000 and retired from the Smithsonian Jan. 25.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery represents the nation's history through images of individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery exhibits likenesses of poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists who embody and invoke American history.

The National Portrait Gallery opened to the public in 1968. The museum has 59 employees and receives $5.5 million in federal funds per year. The National Portrait Gallery reopened to the public in July 2006 after a six-year renovation. The museum is housed in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, which is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. The museum is open every day, except Dec. 25, from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000; (202) 633-5285 (TTY). Web site:

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