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President Ruth Simmons has been named to the Council for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, an advisory board that will oversee the direction and administration of the museum as it prepares to open in 2015, the museum announced Monday.

"In serving on the committee I join a number of Americans who have demonstrated a commitment to uncovering this history and making it available to the wider public among others," Simmons wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The museum, which was established in 2003, will be the 19th museum affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. According to the museum's Web site, its collection will focus on both historical scholarship and art. Exhibitions will explore the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement and the period of Reconstruction, among other important aspects of African-American history and culture.

"This is, like other museums in the Smithsonian system, a national museum that will provide a venue for the representation of African American history," Simmons wrote. "In that sense, my involvement with the creation of the museum is in keeping with my past work directing and building Afro-American Studies at Princeton and chairing the visiting committee for Afro-American Studies at Harvard."

"Many of us on the Council took notice of Ruth Simmons long before Time magazine … named her ‘America's Best College President,' " said the museum's founding director Lonnie Bunch in a statement. "Throughout her career, Ruth Simmons has shown the highest level of commitment and visionary leadership."

The museum is currently in a "pre-building phase," which involves the development and assembly of its collections, according to a press release from the Smithsonian Institution. The council will advise on the many aspects of this phase, and members will serve until the museum's opening.

Bunch wrote that Simmons' "firm belief that education can transform lives" will be "crucial to the success of this museum."

Former First Lady Laura Bush and Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel are also among the "leaders from business, academia and the arts" who make up the 22-person council, according to the Smithsonian's press release.

Simmons also wrote that her time on the council "will involve a number of programs and individuals at Brown, including the John Nicholas Brown Center."




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