Martin "Marty" Sullivan Named Recipient of 2014 AAM Award for Distinguished Service to Museum

Scholar, educator, museum director, advocate and mentor to be honored posthumously at Alliance Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Seattle, May 19

The Board of Directors of the American Alliance of Museums has announced that the late Martin Sullivan, former director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and six other museums or museum organizations throughout his outstanding 35-year career, is the recipient of its Award for Distinguished Service to Museums for 2014.

Sullivan’s widow, Katherine Sullivan, and their two daughters will accept the award during the general session at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Seattle, May 19.

In a letter supporting Sullivan’s nomination, Irene Hirano Inouye, president, U.S.-Japan Council, and former chair of the AAM Board said, “Marty’s long career as a museum director at significant institutions—from the Heard Museum [in Phoenix] to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery—has benefited not only those institutions but the field at large. In addition to Marty’s work with the Accreditation Commission, he was always willing to support other colleagues, share information, lead new initiatives. His work with diverse communities and his advocacy for a more inclusive museum community has inspired others to strive for these values.”

In addition to his leadership positions at the Indiana Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State Museum, Heard Museum and Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland, Sullivan also served 12 years on the AAM Accreditation Commission (including six years as chair), was vice-chair of the AAM Board, on which he served 13 years, and was a dedicated peer reviewer for AAM’s excellence programs.

In Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough’s letter of support for Sullivan’s nomination, he noted, “He brings to the Institution, and indeed the entire museum field, knowledge born of experience and wisdom rooted in his deep commitment to scholarship as public service.”

Sullivan chaired the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee, where he helped advise on actions to deter worldwide theft of antiquities and ultimately resigned this post to draw attention to the looting of antiquities in Iraq. He also served on and chaired the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review committee during its formative years.

 “Marty’s tireless efforts to advance museum standards and ethics may be unrivaled,” said AAM president Ford W. Bell. “Certainly AAM never had a better friend, nor a more devoted and tireless supporter and volunteer.”

The AAM Award for Distinguished Service to Museums recognizes sustained excellence and unusual service by an individual with at least 20 years experience in the field. Criteria include the individual’s cumulative contribution to his/her institution, the museum profession and the larger museum community. This award is not necessarily given annually.

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Dewey Blanton
Alliance Communications