Blankenberg, a member of the African diaspora, has a proven track record in the systemic transformation of museums and cultural spaces to become more inclusive and more engaged in the community and society around them.
“The National Museum of African Art embodies the Smithsonian’s mission to foster understanding, inspire dialogue and bring people together irrespective of language, culture or border,” said Lonnie Bunch, the Secretary of the Smithsonian. “Ngaire’s leadership and experience will be invaluable in using the museum’s unparalleled collections and scholarship of African Art to further our reach, diversify our audiences and have a more profound impact on the nation and world.”
As a consultant, Blankenberg has advised clients on strategies for decolonization, concept development, operations and business planning, programming, stakeholder and public engagement, and more. Her recent consulting clients include the National Gallery of Canada, Superblue, Museum and Archive of the Constitution at the Hill (Johannesburg), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, MEG—Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, Olympique de Marseille football club, and other global and local institutions.
In 2017, Blankenberg served as the head of content and strategy for Kossmanndejong, an Amsterdam-based design agency where she helped museum clients shape their interpretive approach to exhibitions, strategic planning, new business development, and content development. She spent the previous eight years (2008–16) at Lord Cultural Resources as a principal consultant. From 2015 to 2016, she served as the director of Lord Cultural Resources in Europe.
In addition to her extensive work consulting for museums and cultural heritage sites, Blankenberg is a TV and documentary producer, public speaker, and a published author. She holds a Master of Arts in media and cultural studies from the University of Natal, in Durban, South Africa, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Blakenberg succeeds Augustus Casely-Hayford, who was director of the museum until March 2020. Deborah Mack from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has served as the interim director of the museum.
Soft power is the new hard power. It is in Africa that this transformation to soft power can take place and become strategically valuable. Africa is experiencing an exceptional cultural revolution through fashion, film, visual arts, cultural sites, media, design, video games, entertainment, music, literature, and even the launch by the NBA of an African Basketball League whose last investor was President Obama.
On October 15th, 2021, the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, made possible by the sponsorship of ADS Group, OCP Africa and Prosper Africa, hosted the Africa Creative Industries Summit. In partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Trace TV, the Summit provides a unique and timely convening of leaders and stakeholders in dialogue to discuss the many opportunities, pathways and challenges in the creative industries. The relationship the U.S. has with African culture and creative industries is full of potential and promise. In a time of global recovery and transition, the creative and cultural industries can foster collective security and prosperity.