Nancy Yao Withdraws as Director of Women’s History Museum

The person the Smithsonian Institution chose to be the founding director of the burgeoning American Women’s History Museum has turned down the role, the Smithsonian Institution announced Wednesday.

Smithsonian Institution spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said the new director, Nancy Yao, cited “sensitive family issues” in her decision to step down. The announcement comes after Yao completed an investigation into how he handled allegations of sexual harassment during his previous tenure as curator of the New York Museum.

For eight years, Yao headed the Museum of the Chinese in America, a small cultural organization in Manhattan’s Chinatown district.

The Smithsonian Institution did not elaborate on the findings of an outside firm hired to investigate sexual harassment issues. Yao did not elaborate on the family issues she raised in announcing her resignation.

About a month after the Smithsonian Institution announced her appointment, The Washington Post reported Under Mr. Yao, the Chinese-American Museum said it had settled three unfair dismissal lawsuits filed by employees in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment on behalf of a young female employee.

For months, Yao’s appointment was in jeopardy as an outside firm investigated allegations against him. One of the lawsuits included allegations that Yao, as director, “accepted and supported persistent sexual harassment by two male staff members” against several male staff members. female employees within the organization. Yao denied the allegations in court documents, arguing the museum had adequate policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace harassment. He denied to the Post that employees were fired in retaliation for reporting and said the decision was due to budget pressures.

Yao did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The Women’s History Museum appointed Melanie A. Adams, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum, as interim director while the Smithsonian Institution searched for a replacement. St. Thomas said 18 staff members at the Women’s History Museum were informed of Yao’s decision on Wednesday.

In spearheading the development of the new museum, which does not yet have a building, Yao would have overseen an ambitious effort to curate a collection designed to represent the historical impact of American women. . He founded a museum that will open in about ten years, estimated The total cost from construction to production of the exhibits is approximately $375 million.

The museum’s construction was funded partly by the federal government and partly by philanthropy, making Yao’s track record in nonprofit fundraising undoubtedly attractive to the Smithsonian Institution.

Yao, a former employee of the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs, lead a nonprofit Before taking over the American Chinese Museum, it was dedicated to cultural exchanges between the United States and China. She led the organization when a devastating fire burned down the building, endangering some 85,000 artifacts. The museum secured a $3 million grant to help preserve the collection, and then announced plans for a new, significantly expanded headquarters designed by architect Maya Lin and museum designer Ralph Appelbaum.Inside the Smithsonian Institution Yao Hiring Announcement Quoted The organization has managed to raise over $60 million for the project.

While working at the Chinatown Museum, Yao became an influential leader in New York City’s cultural scene, but was also the subject of fierce criticism from the surrounding community. In 2021, the museum was the scene of protests by local residents who opposed a decision to take $35 million from the city as part of a community investment plan at a time when the city was expanding a prison in the neighborhood. . At the time, Yao said protesters’ grievances had been misdirected to a small museum.

The Smithsonian Institution had announced that Mr. Yao would take over as museum director on June 5, but the start date was pushed back by several weeks amid an ongoing investigation into Yao’s handling of a whistleblower complaint in New York.

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