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Van Allen, Amy

National Museum of the American Indian staff


Project manager with almost twenty years of experience working with Indigenous peoples and on diverse projects spanning exhibitions, web, community and visitor engagement, education, and programming. Recognized leader of high-visibility cross-functional teams delivering exceptional museum experiences to international audiences. Communicator skilled at distilling critical messages, teaching and training, and deriving lessons learned. Change agent for museum practice and mission-enabling opportunities.

Geographic Focus

education and training

Professional Biography

  • Amy's multidisciplinary experience benefits the diversity of projects in her portfolio. A committed professional leading large project teams working on high-visibility projects, Amy's leadership and training work for the expansion of the museum's mission to both individual and community benefit. Her scholarly work is in service to similar goals of expanding recognition of diverse knowledge systems and exploring gaps related to the intersections of society, culture, and nature.
    • Assigned to examine and cohesively execute the redevelopment of the museum’s non-gallery public spaces to improve visitor experience and deploy critical content for visitor orientation and basic issue understanding
    • Lauded execution of the Walt Disney World Epcot project, Epcot’s first-ever exhibition featuring the history and culture of Native America, and the Inka Road project, the first project dedicated to South America, culminating in a major gallery exhibition, publication, international traveling exhibition, multiple education products, and a collaboration with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
    • Successful conceptualization, development, and installation of the museum-changing imagiNATIONS Activity Center, the first immersive hands-on family space in the museum which brought new and repeat audiences and made culture accessible in non-threatening ways
    • PhD dissertation explores how indigenous knowledge systems are recognized and can be incorporated into heritage discussions to improve sustainable management practices that engage with Indigenous people in respectful ways that both include their place-specific knowledges and provide for positive socio-economic outcomes

Public Biography

  • Amy spent the first 12 years of her NMAI career working with Indigenous communities across the Western Hemisphere. Recent museum project work includes the off-site exhibition at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center, the bilingual South American‐focused exhibition, The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire, including a traveling version and components of the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival featuring Peru, and the interactive family‐friendly imagiNATIONS Activity Center. As part of the wider Smithsonian community, Amy volunteers as a tour manager for Smithsonian Journeys, which has taken her to many extraordinary places, from Glacier Bay, Alaska to Japan and the Galápagos. Amy holds an MS in environmental science and an MA in international relations. Her PhD work is in geography focused on cultural heritage. She is also a certified marine naturalist for the Salish Sea.