Photo by Michael Barnes, Smithsonian Institution photographer

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Elaine Nichols

A native of Charlotte, NC, Elaine Nichols is the Supervisory Curator of Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which opens in 2016. In addition to her administrative duties, she is responsible for helping to develop the inaugural collections of the museum.

She is the curator of the Black Fashion Museum collection founded by Lois Alexander Lane and the Ebony Fashion Fair collection created by Eunice Johnson, and she is the project curator for the Civil Rights History Project (CRHP), a public mandate of the U.S. Congress. The CRHP, a collaboration between the museum and the Library of Congress, collected oral histories of more than 130 grassroots activists, supporters, and national leaders who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s.

Prior to coming to the NMAAHC, Nichols worked at the South Carolina State Museum from 1989 until 2009. While at the museum she served as a guest curator and mounted the exhibition The Last Miles of the Way: African American Funeral and Mourning Customs in South Carolina, 1890-Present.

Ms. Nichols has a Masters of Art in Public Service Archaeology from the University of South Carolina and a Masters of Art in Social Administration and Planning from Case Western Reserve University.

Ten Things I Can’t Do Without

  1. Relationships with God, family, and friends
  2. Laughter that is so deep that it makes me cry tears of joy
  3. Loving kindness
  4. The joyfulness of children
  5. Great storytelling, in all forms
  6. Exploration of interesting food, places, and creative endeavors
  7. Opportunity to do research on topics that interest me
  8. An occasional game of Bridge, Bid Whist, Spades, or Chess
  9. Positive interaction with warm and fuzzy creatures: cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.
  10. Introspection―How Can I Be Better?