Robert Leopold, director of the Smithsonian’s Consortium for World Cultures and senior program officer for history, art and culture, has been appointed deputy director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, effective August 24. With an extensive background at the Smithsonian, Leopold is known for promoting interdisciplinary scholarship and public programs that inspire audiences to explore the cultural and artistic heritage of the world’s peoples.
“Robert’s work and research at the Smithsonian demonstrate his dedication to expanding understanding and promoting public engagement and his commitment to supporting cultural sustainability,” said Michael Atwood Mason, director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “I am excited for Robert to add his strong leadership and management skills to our collections and research teams.”
In 2010 Leopold was named the director of the Consortium for World Cultures, where he fostered the development of pan-institutional research teams and guided the review of proposals for innovative research and public programs. To date, the four Grand Challenges Consortia have supported ninety-five interdisciplinary research projects involving no fewer than 365 scholars, scientists, and educators from forty Smithsonian museums, archives, research institutes and outreach programs with more than $6.35 million in seed funding. Leopold also contributes to the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative and will continue his work to preserve and revitalize endangered languages at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Leopold received his bachelor’s degree in English literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Indiana University. As a Fulbright Fellow, he conducted two years of ethnographic research on marriage alliance and ritual collaboration among the Loma people of Liberia. His current research on information ethics and digital technology explores how scholars and Indigenous communities negotiate access to culturally sensitive heritage collections in libraries, archives, and museums, an interest he developed while directing the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives.
“I am honored to join the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and contribute to its unparalleled legacy of curatorial research, educational initiatives and archival work,” Leopold said. “I’m also thrilled to work with a team of extraordinarily talented colleagues whose passion, dedication, and mission I have always admired.”