University of Iowa

2018 Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture

“A Darker Presence”: Interpretive Goals and Collecting Strategies in the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Presented by William S. Pretzer, the senior curator for history of the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Looking at the American story through the lens of the African American experience in a national museum presents the opportunity to refashion the national narrative. This process began in earnest in 2005 with no staff, no collection, no building site, no building, and no interpretive plan. Taking advantage of that opportunity required a humanistic vision rooted in scholarship, community recollections and innovative collecting strategies. In this year’s Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture, William Pretzer will share the challenges of collecting and displaying this complicated version of American history that stretches from Africa to the Caribbean to the United States.



Joel Barkan

About Joel Barkan

The Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture is part of the annual Provost’s Global Forum at the University of Iowa.

Joel Barkan was a serious scholar of the politics of Africa who, after his retirement from the university in 2005, went on to have a second career in Washington, D.C., as a consultant with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the World Bank, and the Agency for International Development.  He also served for several years as senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  Many of the university’s faculty, staff, and administrators knew him also as a creative program-builder who made lasting contributions to international studies at the university and to the regular discussion in Iowa City of changing political, economic, and social circumstances in the world.  UI faculty members who were his colleagues and who teach international studies proposed that Joel Barkan be recognized in a named annual campus lecture.  The first annual Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture was given in 2015.