Michelle Joan Wilkinson

Michelle Joan Wilkinson

Michelle Joan Wilkinson, Ph.D. is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), where she works on projects related to contemporary black life. She is the co-curator of two inaugural exhibitions at the NMAAHC: A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond and A Century in the Making: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Wilkinson is also developing the museum’s collections in architecture and design.

Prior to NMAAHC, spent six years as Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. In that capacity, she curated over twenty exhibitions, including the critically-acclaimed A People’s Geography: The Spaces of African American Life, and two award-winning shows: For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People and Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists.


Wilkinson holds a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. from Emory University. From 1999-2002, she was an assistant professor of African American, Puerto Rican, and Caribbean literature at Bard College in New York. In 2002, Wilkinson entered the museum field seeking to fulfill her passion for the arts, writing, scholarly research, and public engagement. Since then, she has worked on exhibitions, publications, and public programs for the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she held the position of Editor and Library Coordinator.

Wilkinson’s research interests range from African American and African Diaspora cultural studies to global architecture and design. Wilkinson was a 2012 fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York City, and completed a short-term residency at the Design Museum in London as part of her fellowship. Her honors and awards include fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London. Her interdisciplinary research project, “V is for Veranda,” about architectural heritage in the Anglophone Caribbean, has been presented to international audiences in Suriname, England, India, and the United States.

Wilkinson is active on several boards and committees in the museum field. She is the editor of For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People and she has published critical essays in New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement and Potentially Harmful: The Art of American Censorship. Her writing also has appeared in the International Review of African American Art, ARC Magazine: Contemporary Caribbean Visual Art and Culture, Studio: The Studio Museum in Harlem Magazine, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, Black Issues Book Review, and Revue Noire: Art Contemporain Africain, among others.