Michelle Joan Wilkinson will present at the seminar in Art and Material Culture of Africa and the African Diaspora on Tuesday, January 25, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “From Concrete to Filigree: Exploring Diasporic Identity through Material Culture.”

How is identity shaped by material culture, and vice versa? Through the media of concrete and filigree, Wilkinson reveals two material legacies that inform her identity and approach to writing about diaspora. Her efforts to intervene in discussions of African diaspora design histories have privileged oral history, family archives, and other intimate forms of scholarly and curatorial research. As a result, Wilkinson contends, her work has become more attuned to questions of loss, inheritance, and preservation.


Michelle Joan Wilkinson, PhD is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), where she is working to expand the museum’s collections in design and architecture. In 2018, she served as lead organizer for the museum’s three-day symposium, “Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now.” In 2019–2020, Wilkinson was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Prior to her role at NMAAHC, Wilkinson was director of collections and exhibitions at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. She has also worked at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. As a fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership in 2012, Wilkinson completed a short-term residency at the Design Museum in London. Her ongoing research project, “V is for Veranda,” about architectural heritage in the Anglophone Caribbean, has been presented to international audiences in Suriname, England, India, and the United States. Wilkinson’s most recent work explores issues of representation in architectural renderings. She holds a BA from Bryn Mawr College and a PhD from Emory University.


This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.