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Dr. Brent D. Glass  

Director Emeritus, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Brent D. Glass is Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the world’s largest museum devoted to telling the story of America. A national leader in the preservation, interpretation, and promotion of history, Glass is a public historian who pioneered influential oral history and material culture studies, an author, television presence and international speaker on cultural diplomacy and museum management. As director of the National Museum of American History since 2002, Glass led a two-year, $120 million renovation and development of 20 new exhibitions for the 2008 reopening, including the major exhibitions on The Star-Spangled Banner; Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life and On the Water: Stories from Maritime America, and 80 public programs and 2,500 theater performances. Since 2008, more than 13 million people have visited, a 50% increase over previous years and the Museum’s web site has an additional 8 million visitors.

Glass is an active member of and consultant to the diplomatic, cultural and academic communities. He served as a member of the Flight 93 Memorial Advisory Commission and on the State Department’s U.S-Russia Bilateral Commission Working Group on Education and Culture. He travels frequently as a featured speaker or participant in U.S. State Department public and cultural diplomacy programs, and serves as a consultant and advisor to several cultural organizations including The Presidio in San Francisco Presidio and the DeVos Institute at The Kennedy Center in Washington. He was a trustee of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania and a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies in Washington, D.C. Before joining the Smithsonian, Glass served from 1987-2002 as executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, managing the largest and most comprehensive state history program in the country, with 25 historical sites and museums, State Archives, State Museum, the State Historic Preservation Office, public history programs and historical publications.

Glass earned his doctorate in history from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in American Studies from New York University, and bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College. He also completed the program for government executives at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He writes and speaks extensively on public memory, historic preservation and industrial history.

Speech Topics


Great American Places

An illustrated survey of essential historic sites selected from my book, 50 Great American Places (Simon & Schuster, 2016). These sites represent every region in the country, all time periods from pre-colonial to late 20th century, and major themes (freedom, war, innovation, diversity and landscape) that have shaped our national experience.

Public Memory in America

An illustrated presentation on the national debates and controversies over remembering and commemorating the past at museums, memorials and monuments. From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the 1980s to the Enola Gay exhibition in the 1990s to the current debate over remembering slavery and the Civil War, this talk will engage and educate the audience and is designed to raise questions for discussion.

Sing Sing Prison and the History of Criminal Justice

An illustrated presentation about one of America's iconic institutions. Every chapter in the history of criminal justice has a few pages written at Sing Sing Prison. This talk will review this extraordinary and largely unknown history; present plans for a new museum at Sing Sing Prison and connect the history to contemporary issues in criminal justice.

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