Nexus Podcast | September 24, 2020

Michelle Joan Wilkinson

Season 1, Episode 4: Dr. Michelle Joan Wilkinson discusses the systems of power embedded in architectural design and her work as a curator documenting diasporic architectural heritage.

Photo of Michelle Joan Wilkinson standing against a stone wall background


In this month’s episode, we talk to Dr. Michelle Joan Wilkinson, curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Together, we take a deep dive into Terry Boddie’s Blueprint (2001) as a lens into systems of power embedded in architectural design and the historical ties between visual representation and histories of subjugation. Along the way we discuss Dr. Wilkinson’s earliest encounters with art and art history, her personal experiences documenting diasporic architectural heritage, and the importance of recording and preserving Black oral histories. We also get an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Dr. Wilkinson’s process of curating collections around Black architects and architectural history at the Smithsonian and beyond.

Full Transcript

Image of Terry Boddie, Blueprint (2001)
Terry Boddie, Blueprint (2001), Gelatin silver emulsion, iron blue toner on paper Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

About Michelle Joan Wilkinson

Dr. Michelle Joan Wilkinson is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where she works on projects related to contemporary black life. Dr. Wilkinson is also developing the museum’s collections in architecture and design, and recently completed a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Previously, she spent six years as director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and she has also worked at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Her most recent research explores issues of representation in architectural renderings. ​She is the lead organizer of the symposium Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now.

How to Listen

You can listen to all available episodes and find program notes here on our website, or subscribe to the series via one of these providers: iTunes, GoogleSpotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher.

About the Show

Developed by the African American Design Nexus at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, The Nexus is a podcast that explores the intersection of design, identity, and practice through conversations with Black designers, writers and educators. The Nexus is produced in conjunction with a commitment by the Frances Loeb Library to acquire and create an open-access bibliography of various media suggested by the GSD community on the intersection between race and design.

Show Credits

The Nexus Season 1 is hosted by Caleb Negash and Tara Oluwafemi, students in the Master of Architecture program at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Our show is recorded and edited by Maggie Janik, and our theme music is produced by DJ Eway.


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