Mary Jo Arnoldi



Curator of African Ethnology and Arts




Smithsonian Institution


Mary Jo Arnoldi is curator for African ethnology and arts in the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. She is received her PhD in Art History from Indiana University in 1983. She is the author of Playing With Time: Art and Performance in Central Mali Indiana University Press, 1995]; co-editor and contributor to African Material Culture [Indiana University Press, 1996], and editor and contributor to Engaging Smithsonian Objects through Science, History and the Art [Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2016]. She has conducted research in Mali since 1978 and has published numerous articles on the visual arts and expressive culture. Her research focuses on the roles that the arts play in the construction of identities: local, national, and global. She is especially interested in post-colonial public culture in West Africa. She also conducts research on museum collections of African material culture and on the history of Western museums with an emphasis on their representations of Africa. She was the lead curator on the permanent exhibition African Voices which opened at the Smithsonian in late December 1999 and has curated a number of African temporary exhibitions at the Smithsonian and at other US museums.