Marsha L. Semmel

Acting Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services

Marsha L. Semmel assumed the role of Acting Director on March 14, 2010. Ms. Semmel will lead the agency until a new director is nominated and confirmed for a four-year term. She continues to hold the positions of Deputy Director for Museums and Director for Strategic Partnerships.

As Deputy Director for Museums, Ms. Semmel manages the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ portfolio of grantmaking programs that support capacity-building and leadership projects for all types of museums, including art, history, science, historic houses, children’s museums, aquaria, arboreta, botanical gardens, and zoos.

As Director for Strategic Partnerships, Ms. Semmel maintains oversight of federal-state partnership activities, initiates and implements collaborations with other federal agencies and organizations, and manages special projects and initiatives.

From 1998 to 2002, Ms. Semmel was President and CEO of the Women of the West Museum, in Denver, Colorado. Prior to that, she was President and CEO of Conner Prairie, a living history museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.

From 1984 to 1996, Ms. Semmel worked at the National Endowment for the Humanities, in Washington, DC, serving as program officer; Assistant Director for Humanities Projects in Museums and Historical Organizations; and Director, Division of Public Programs. She began her museum career as curator and educator at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, was deputy director of the B’nai B’rith National Jewish Museum in Washington, DC, and Program Coordinator for the Resident Associates Program at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1979, Semmel was a Fellow in the Museums Program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ms. Semmel has a BA in English Literature and History of Art from the University of Michigan (Phi Beta Kappa) and an MA in Art History from the University of Cincinnati. A past board member of the American Association of Museums and the Colorado Digitization Project, she is currently on the board of Art Table, a national organization for professional women in leadership positions in the visual arts.

Ms. Semmel is a frequent speaker on cultural policy, museum practice, and learning in museums, and has authored numeral articles on museum issues.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

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