Debate Biography


Director, National Portrait Gallery

Marc Pachter, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, first joined the Gallery staff in 1974, serving as chief historian and assistant director. An author and editor with a particular interest in cultural history and biography, Pachter is regarded as the Smithsonian's "master interviewer." He was the Smithsonian's deputy assistant secretary for external affairs from 1990 to 1994, overseeing Smithsonian magazine, SI Press, and membership and development programs. Later, he was appointed counselor to the Secretary, with oversight of electronic media issues, chairing the institution's 150th anniversary, and facilitating key international partnerships. He was appointed director at the National Portrait Gallery effective July, 2000. Marc also served as acting director of the National Museum of American History from November 2001 through December 2002, becoming the first person at the Smithsonian to serve in concurrent directorships.

As part of the Smithsonian's administration, Marc Pachter has served as the chair of the Institution's joint venture in video history with the Sloan Foundation, and as consultant to Smithsonian World (PBS). He was the senior consultant for a six-program documentary history of American business and for a PBS program by Tom Peters on the public sector. He has served as a consultant on programs produced for international broadcast and distribution. Since 1996 he has directed an initiative launched by the Smithsonian to explore television and feature film opportunities with the Creative Artists Agency in Hollywood.

Mr. Pachter's television work includes a number of programs, documentaries, and interviews for national and international media. He has served as a frequent commentator for CBS ("Nightwatch"), the Voice of America, and C-SPAN, and has hosted on a number of projects as the interviewer for filmed conversations with such distinguished Americans as George Abbott, Clare Boothe Luce, William L. Shirer, Mortimer Adler, Katherine Dunham, Walter Cronkite, Eleanor Dulles, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Charlton Heston, Agnes de Mille, Katharine Graham and Senators J. William Fulbright and Charles Mathias. In commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Fulbright program, he produced a series of interactive television broadcasts (WORLD-NET) to European, Latin American and East Asian capitals, featuring J. Carter Brown, Peter Sellers, Daniel Aaron, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joseph Papp.

He has authored or edited a number of manuscripts, including Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation, Champions of American Sport, Documentary History of the Supreme Court, Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art, A Gallery of Presidents, as well as entries in the Dictionary of American Biography. He is an editor for the scholarly journal, Biography, and has led a group of Washington-based biographers for fifteen years, which has produced 25 biographies to date. Mr. Pachter has also lectured extensively throughout the United States and abroad.

Mr. Pachter graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Berkeley. Thereafter, he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Five-Year Prize Fellow in American History at Harvard University, where he taught colonial history, served as a Tutor in the honors program, and performed research in American intellectual and cultural history.


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