Margaret Salazar-Porzio

Margaret Salazar-Porzio, Deputy Director of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities, is a leader in public history and cultural preservation, renowned for her dedication to fostering community engagement in the arts and humanities. Growing up in East Los Angeles, California, with Mexican and Japanese heritage, she cultivated a deep appreciation for the power of narratives in bridging understanding across diverse communities. As the curator of Latinx History and Culture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has made significant contributions, leveraging her diverse background to infuse exhibitions with a nuanced understanding of cultural history. She co-curated the impactful exhibition "Many Voices, One Nation" and produced the exhibition book, Many Voices, One Nation: Material Culture Reflections on Race and Migration in the United States (2017). She also spearheaded the bilingual exhibition, book, and multi-modal Learning Lab, ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues / En los barrios y las grandes ligas, currently on a national tour through 2025. Salazar-Porzio’s most recent projects include the award-winning “Collective Care in Puerto Rico” in collaboration with the Hurricane Maria Archive and the University of Puerto Rico documenting the overlapping crises that have affected Puerto Ricans, and a highly acclaimed project about “Chicanas Changing History” with the University of Michigan, chronicling the lives and careers of Chicanas in academia over 50 years to highlight their important contributions to the field of History. 

As Chair of the Division of Home and Community Life, Salazar-Porzio oversaw Smithsonian staff and contractors, leading operations, strategic planning, and performance evaluation. Before her tenure at the Smithsonian, Dr. Salazar-Porzio served as an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University Law School's Center for Institutional and Social Change, where she led strategic planning workshops and conducted mixed methods research.

OAH Lectures by Margaret Salazar-Porzio

"Everyday and Extraordinary: 50 Years of Chicanas Changing History" explores initiatives at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) to raise awareness of Chicana/Latina contributions to the field of United States history. By starting with an unlikely group -- Chicana historians – the talk interrogates the evolution of the field of history, providing a bold look at knowledge creation and diffusion. It contextualizes these women’s experiences in the field of history within larger exclusionary trends in the academy. These women are a living legacy of the Chicano movement and the growth of and battles over Ethnic Studies departments across the nation. Their lives and experiences created significant shifts in what the academy understands and accepts as “History” – so much so that historians today often take for granted the ways these women changed the practice of historical exploration. This talk traces some of the legacies of their steadfast commitment to justice, equality, democracy, liberation, and self-determination over the past 50 years to provide a reconceptualization of democracy in America, who belongs here, and what it means to be American.

In this enlightening talk, Salazar-Porzio, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, delves into the strategies employed by staff at one of the world's most renowned cultural institutions to navigate uncertain times. Drawing from real-life case studies at the Smithsonian, this presentation explores how museums and cultural organizations must adapt in a rapidly changing world. From the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to shifting societal expectations, curators’ contemporary collecting offers valuable insights into sustaining public engagement and relevance. Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the tension between the federal context and creative approaches to sustaining a mission of education, inspiration, and preservation. This talk is essential for cultural professionals, museum administrators, and anyone interested in the intersection of culture, education, and adaptability in a world marked by uncertainty.

In this thought-provoking talk, Salazar-Porzio questions the profound role museums can play in preserving our collective history and contributing to a more humane future. This presentation explores the power of museums to connect us with our shared heritage, illuminate our common humanity, and inspire positive change. By examining the ways in which museums curate and interpret cultural artifacts, attendees will gain a deeper appreciation for the tensions at play, and the transformative potential within these institutions. Salazar-Porzio will discuss how museums serve as platforms for dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation, particularly in the face of contemporary challenges such as cultural diversity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. This talk is a must-attend for anyone interested in the vital role of cultural heritage in shaping our world.

In this engaging talk, curator Salazar-Porzio delves into the intersection of culture, community, and the beloved American pastime through the lens of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History exhibition, ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues / En los barrios y las grandes ligas. This presentation highlights how baseball serves as a powerful cultural bridge, transcending borders and weaving together diverse narratives. From local barrios to the major leagues, the story of Latinas/os in baseball is a tale of community, identity, survival, and global influence. Through compelling stories, artifacts, and cultural insights, attendees will gain a deeper understanding of how baseball serves as a nexus of global and local identities. Salazar-Porzio explores how the Smithsonian's community-driven exhibition uncovers the global impact of a local passion, celebrating the richness of Latinas/os' experiences in the world of baseball. More than simply a game, Latinas/os have changed baseball and the game has deeply influenced Latino communities.

"Ephemera Across Borders: Documenting American Immigration History" dives into the crucial significance of collecting and preserving material and visual culture as a means of understanding United States immigration history. Everyday items carry deep narratives of the immigrant experience, reflecting hopes, dreams, and challenges of newcomers who have shaped the nation. This talk provides insight into how these fleeting traces of the past offer valuable insights into US immigration history, transcending borders and time. Explore the role of museums, archives, and curators in safeguarding these artifacts, ensuring that the complexities of immigration history are preserved for future generations. Salazar-Porzio unravels the hidden stories within visual and material culture, shedding light on the enduring legacy of those who journeyed to make the United States their home. Attendees will discover how these artifacts become powerful lenses through which we can understand immigrant experiences and their profound impact on the United States.

In this talk, Salazar-Porzio explored a powerful paradigm shift in the world of museums and cultural institutions. This presentation explores the transformative practice of co-curation, where communities with lived experiences take an active role in shaping their own narratives within the context of cultural heritage, exhibitions, and collections documentation. Discover how this approach empowers communities, amplifies their voices, and fosters a deeper connection to cultural institutions and shared history. Attendees will gain insights into the collaborative processes that challenge traditional museum practices, making room for diverse perspectives and stories that have long been marginalized or overlooked. This presentation details challenges and lessons learned to provide a roadmap for fostering meaningful collaboration between cultural institutions and communities, emphasizing the importance of shared authority and representation.

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