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.