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Kate Clarke Lemay

Historian, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Kate Clarke Lemay joined the National Portrait Gallery as a historian in 2015. She curated “Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image” (2017) and served as the lead historian for the transformation of the museum’s landmark exhibition “America’s Presidents” (2017). Her other projects include “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” (2019) and “1898: The American Imperium” (2023). Lemay is also the coordinating curator for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Lemay published a major scholarly catalogue with Princeton University Press in 2019 to accompany the exhibition “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence.” In 2017, her book Triumph of the Dead: American WWII Cemeteries, Monuments and Diplomacy in France was awarded the Terra Foundation in American Art publication grant. She edited a special issue on transatlantic diplomacy and war cemeteries for The International Journal of Military History and Historiography in 2018. Her other publications include “‘No Vain Glory’: Militarism, Diplomacy and Art in the American War Cemeteries in France” (Journal of War and Culture Studies, 2015); the chapter “Retrofuturism,” co-authored with Elizabeth Guffey, in the Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction (2014); and the chapter “Gratitude, Trauma and Repression: D-Day in French Memory” in D-Day in History and Memory: Comparative Perspectives (University of North Texas Press, 2014). She has also published essays for The Strategy Bridge, Zócalo Public Square, Reviews in American History, the Marine Corps University Press, and Smithsonian Books. Her research has been supported by a number of grants, including an IIE Fulbright grant in France, a Terra Foundation in American Art predoctoral grant at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a fellowship in American Modernism at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, and a French government grant from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at the Caen Mémorial Museum, Centre for History and Peace.

Before joining the National Portrait Gallery, Lemay was an assistant professor of art history at Auburn University Montgomery, and she was a visiting assistant professor of the history of modern and contemporary art at Brigham Young University.

Lemay earned a dual PhD in American art history and American studies from Indiana University (Bloomington), where she also completed an MA in art history. She also holds a BA in French and art history from Syracuse University, graduating with the Award of Excellence in French, magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa.


  • –present
    Historian, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution