Who We Are

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Katelynn Averyt, Program Assistant
Katelynn Averyt is the program assistant at the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, where she manages special projects and provides programmatic support. Prior to her work at the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, Katelynn was an assistant to the director for strategic planning at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, in Washington, D.C. She received her M.A. in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University and her B.A. in Classics from The Catholic University of America.

Alda Benjamen, Research Associate
Dr. Alda Benjamen completed her Ph.D. in Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her dissertation, "Negotiating the Place of Assyrians in Modern Iraq," examines the role of Assyrians, a Christian ethno-religious group, in Iraq's intellectual and oppositional movements in the second half of the twentieth century. She bases her research on original sources uncovered in Baghdad, Erbil, Duhok, and Mosul in languages ranging from Arabic, Classical Syriac, and modern Aramaic. Dr. Benjamen was a fellow at the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq and holds a master's degree from the Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Department at the University of Toronto in Syriac Studies.

Stacy Bowe, Training Coordinator
Stacy Bowe manages and coordinates the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative’s collaborative training programs, which include the international First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAC) training and the U.S.–focused Heritage Emergency and Response Training (HEART).  After completing her master's program in Managing Archaeological Sites at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, she participated in a six-month internship with the UNESCO Culture Unit in Bangkok, Thailand, where she assisted with processing submissions to the 2014 Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Previously, Stacy was the Department Assistant in the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler Gallery, where she oversaw the administrative management of the office as well as assisted conservators on several technical studies. Her bachelor’s degree in Archaeology was obtained from Dickinson College, Pennsylvania.

Brian I. Daniels, Director of Research and Programs, Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum
Brian I. Daniels is the director of research and programs for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Daniels co-directs the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project, which aims to enhance the protection of cultural heritage by supporting professionals and activists in conflict areas, and leads a National Science Foundation-supported study about the intentional destruction of cultural heritage in conflict. He has also worked with local communities on issues surrounding heritage rights and repatriation for over fifteen years. Previously, he served as the manager of the National Endowment for the Humanities regional center initiative at San Francisco State University, where he worked on strategies for community engagement and folklore documentation. Dr. Daniels received his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Lori Foley, Administrator, Heritage Emergency National Task Force
Lori Foley coordinates the functions of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), ensuring that local, state, territorial, and federal cultural stewards and emergency managers work together before and after disasters to protect cultural heritage. Prior to joining FEMA and serving as the HENTF liaison to the Smithsonian, Foley was VP of Emergency Programs at Heritage Preservation, where her responsibilities included creating and supporting cultural heritage emergency networks, including the Alliance for Response and the State Heritage Emergency Partnership. She has lectured widely and conducted numerous workshops on emergency preparedness and response at cultural institutions across the U.S. and internationally.

Elizabeth KirbyDirector of Strategic Partnerships and Communication
Elizabeth Kirby is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communication for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. She uses her experience to help SCRI staff engage with organizations dedicated to the preservation and sustainability of cultural heritage through collaborations and external funding. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she was the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs at American University. She also worked in the university’s development office in corporate and foundation relations and held a post in continuing education that involved developing customized training and education programs for private and public sector organizations. She received her MA from American University in Linguistics and her BA from the University of Florida in Asian Studies. She is a member of the National Organization of Research Development Professionals and holds the Certified Research Administrator (CRA) credential.

Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large
As a member of the Smithsonian’s senior leadership team, Richard Kurin helps guide the Institution’s national museums, pre-eminent research centers, and educational programs with a staff of 6,500 and annual budget of $1.5 billion. His areas of focus are the Smithsonian’s strategic direction, institutional partnerships, public representation, philanthropic support, and special initiatives.  Prior to his current role, Kurin served as Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research from 2015, and from 2007 served as Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. For two decades before that, Kurin directed the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Kurin was appointed by successive Secretaries of State to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and helped draft an international treaty to safeguard living cultural heritage now ratified by 170 nations. He led efforts to save heritage in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and has overseen projects for saving heritage endangered by natural disaster in Nepal and the U.S., and by human conflict in Mali, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Kurin served as liaison to the U.S. President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the White House Historical Association, and chairs a task group for the U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee. He is a board member of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas and serves on the Visiting Committee for the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. He has been honored by Harvard University’s Peabody Museum, the International Council of Museums, the American Anthropological Association, the American Folklore Society, and the Smithsonian, and is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

An anthropologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Kurin specialized in the study of South Asia. He has held Fulbright and Social Science Research Council fellowships, taught at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and authored six books, including the best-selling The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects.  

Corine Wegener, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer
Corine Wegener is the cultural heritage preservation officer and coordinates the Smithsonian’s outreach programs for cultural heritage in crisis. Before arriving at the Smithsonian, she was associate curator in the department of Decorative Arts, Textiles, and Sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. In a concurrent Army Reserve career, Wegener served on several military deployments, including as Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer for the 352d Civil Affairs Command in Baghdad, Iraq, 2003–2004. Her Smithsonian projects include the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project and emergency programs for colleagues in Mali, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Nepal. Wegener is founder and past president of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield and Chair of the ICOM Disaster Relief for Museums Task Force. She holds a B.G.S. from the University of Nebraska–Omaha, and M.A. degrees in both art history and political science from the University of Kansas.

Ella Weiner, Intern
As part of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative team, Ella Weiner works with the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF) and the Heritage Emergency and Response Training (HEART) program. Previously she worked for the Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations on cultural projects and communications. Her research is focused on cultural heritage, international law, and museums. Ella graduated Summa Cum Laude from Tulane University with honors in political science and art history. 

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