Nancy Hanks Memorial Awards for Rising Stars

Nancy Hanks Award Winner

To highlight and celebrate the vital role that museum workers play in building thriving museums, strong communities, and a better world, the AAM Board of Directors is pleased to present the Nancy Hanks Memorial Awards for Rising Stars to recognize museum professionals with ten years or less of experience who are making an impact in their institutions, communities, and the museum field. Multiple individuals may be recognized in a given year.

Awards recognize a specific achievement or body of work that has benefited the honoree’s home institution, community, or the broader museum field. Honorees’ work may be in any area of museum operations (administration, collections management, community engagement, curation, development, education, equity and culture, exhibitions, human resources, leadership and management, marketing and communications, public relations, research and evaluation, registration, security, technology, etc.) or any area impacting the museum field. Recent award winners have been recognized for creating impactful new programs or policies within their museums, harnessing social media to excite and engage audiences, significantly growing their institutions’ membership programs, designing innovative learning environments, and transforming their museums into vibrant community hubs.

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About Nancy Hanks

Nancy Hanks (1927-1983) was the second person and first woman to chair the National Endowment for the Arts. Dubbed the “mother of a million artists,” Hanks grew annual federal financial support for the agency from $16 million to more than $100 million in her eight-year tenure at NEA. She was known for her inspirational and visionary leadership, her unwavering belief in the power of the arts and humanities to transform society, and her support for young professionals in the cultural arena. Tragically, Hanks died of cancer when she was just 55 years old. The AAM Board of Directors established the Nancy Hanks Memorial Award in 1985 to commemorate Hanks’s lifelong support of cultural endeavors among emerging professionals.


  • Nominee should have ten years or less of experience in the museum field at the time of submission (January 2024)
  • Nominee must be active in the museum field through current employment, volunteer service, and/or enrollment in an academic museum program.
  • Nominee may be from or based in any country but must demonstrate contributions to US museum(s) and/or the US museum field.
  • Self-nominations are accepted.

Timeline & Additional Information

Nominations for 2024 are closed. Please check this website in the future for information about the 2025 Awards and Recognition Program.

Read about all 2023 AAM honorees.

Past Recipients

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