August 3, 2020 Library of Congress Appoints New Chief of African and Middle Eastern Division

Press Contact: Leah Knobel | Brett Zongker
Public Contact: Joan Weeks
Website: African and Middle Eastern Division

Lanisa Kitchiner is the new chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division at the Library of Congress. Beverli Alford Photography.

The Library of Congress has appointed Lanisa Kitchiner as chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division. Kitchiner brings more than 18 years’ experience as an administrator of cultural institutions and an academic mobilizing knowledge around Africa’s cultural and historical ties to the Middle East.

Kitchiner most recently served as director of education and scholarly initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art (2014-2020), where she oversaw new initiatives in scholarly research, educational programming and audience outreach. Kitchiner led the revitalization of the distance learning programs at the museum with new technologies and online digital collections, including the National Museum of African Art’s first online exhibition, “Sailors and Daughters: Early Photography and the Indian Ocean.” The exhibition has since been scaled into a dynamic mobile application featuring collection highlights and foreign language components.

“In today’s world, innovative thinking is necessary to maintain the public’s engagement with the Library,” said Eugene Flanagan, director of General and International Collections. “Lanisa’s track record of advancing the impact of collections will be consequential in expanding access to and enhancing the services of the African and Middle Eastern Division.”

Previously, Kitchiner was associate director for programs of the Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University (2002-2014), where she engaged the academic community through programs with the Middle East Institute and the African Diplomatic Corps, among others. She began her career in diplomacy, serving in roles with the U.S. Department of State.

Kitchiner holds a doctorate in African Studies and Research from Howard University. An active member of the Modern Language Association, she was elected to a four-year term as an executive board member (2012-2016). Kitchiner has taught courses in Multi-ethnic Studies and African literature, film and visual arts at Howard University and American University in Washington, D.C.

Kitchiner is active in popular and academic scholarship and has offered lectures to cultural institutions in more than 40 countries. Kitchiner’s publications can be found in edited collections and scholarly journals, including the Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, the College Language Arts Journal and the Journal of Pan African Studies. Kitchiner is editor of a collection of essays on the life and work of contemporary South African artist Mary Sibande (forthcoming), and also serves as co-editor of “The First World Festival of Negro Arts (Dakar 1996): A Sourcebook” (forthcoming). 

In January 2019, the African and Middle Eastern Division acquired and made available online the Omar Ibn Said Collection, which includes the only known extant narrative written in Arabic by an enslaved person in the United States. The collection’s centerpiece — Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography — documents an aspect of the early history of Islam and Muslims in America.

“I am excited to draw upon and advance the critical work of the African and Middle Eastern Division; to make its vast and rich collections even more relevant, accessible, and useful to Congress, the nation and world,” Kitchiner said. “The collections are keys to unlocking the past, to overcoming obstacles of our time, and to ensuring an even brighter future for successor generations … they illuminate our shared global humanity and hold the potential to strengthen respect and understanding for some of the most misunderstood parts of the world.”

The African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) was created in 1978 as part of a general Library of Congress reorganization. AMED consists of three sections — African, Hebraic and Near East — that cover 78 countries and regions from southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia and the Caucasus. Each section plays a vital role in the Library's acquisitions program; offers expert reference and bibliographic services to the Congress and researchers in this country and abroad; develops projects, special events and publications; and cooperates and participates with other institutions and scholarly and professional associations in the U.S. and abroad.

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PR 20-049
ISSN 0731-3527