The Art Angle Podcast: Meet the Smithsonian Curator Who Turns Protesters’ T-Shirts Into National Treasures

This week, curator Aaron Bryant discusses the Smithsonian's rapid-response collecting program and how to preserve history as it happens.

Aaron Bryant, curator of photography, visual culture, and contemporary history at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images. Illustration by the Art Angle.

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.



Although 2020 isn’t even halfway done yet, the worldwide health crisis and the global uprising over civil rights already guarantee that this year will be one historians study forevermore. As challenging as it will be to sort through such monumental events in hindsight, some institutions and individuals are doing an even more difficult job: preserving this history as it happens.

One person at the forefront of this effort is Aaron Bryant, a curator of photography, visual culture, and contemporary history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Bryant leads the institution’s rapid-response collecting initiative, which seeks to secure the objects, images, and stories that will allow historians—and the public at large—to eventually make sense of the events that shaped American life in pivotal moments, including the tumultuous one we are living through right now.

On this week’s episode of the Art Angle, Bryant joins Andrew Goldstein to discuss the historical importance of everyday people, how t-shirts and rakes can capture the essence of a major protest, and how this year’s upheaval is similar to—and different from—previous chapters in American history.

Listen above and subscribe to the Art Angle on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud, or wherever you get your podcasts. (Or catch up on past episodes here on Artnet News.)


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