SAAM Fellowships: Celebrating Fifty Years with Asma Naeem

  • For fifty years, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has fostered new scholarship through its preeminent fellowship program, the oldest and largest in the world for the study of American art.

    ASMA NAEEM: I was a fellow in 2007, and it was an incredible opportunity. Anybody who is a creative spirit, who is doing something that involves creativity, needs encouragement, needs nurturing, and needs support.

    It was an incredible opportunity to be here at the Smithsonian Institution just because my project cut across so many different disciplines. I was looking at the technologies of sound, so I was looking at mechanical devices, such as the telegraph and the telephone, and I was also looking at visual images, so advertisements about the phonograph, for example. Believe it or not, the Smithsonian has libraries specifically devoted to each of these kinds of ideas and resources.

    The network of curators and specialists is invaluable. My two mentors while I was a fellow here were Bill Truettner and Virginia Mecklenburg, and they were an incredible combination of wisdom that I had throughout that year and ever since.

    To say that the SAAM fellowship had an impact on me and my career path would be an understatement. If you look throughout the country at other institutions that are creating this kind of community, there's really no other situation that parallels what we have here at SAAM.