Merry Foresta is a speaker and consultant to universities, museums and other institutions advising on collections and ways to foster innovation in the midst of challenging times. Her clients include the University of Virginia, Ohio University, the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, and the Smithsonian.
From 2000-2010 she served as the founding Director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, a program dedicated to greater public access and use of the Smithsonian’s vast collections of photographic media. She joined the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1977 and was named the museum's first Curator of Photography in 1983. She later became the Senior Curator of Photography for the Smithsonian's International Art Museums Division.
At the Smithsonian, Foresta built one of the world’s premier collections of American photography. An art historian, she is the author of numerous catalog essays and articles on American art and photography. Her must recent publication, At First Sight: Photography and the Smithsonian, featured a broad sampling of photographs from the institutions art, history, and science collections. In 2007, she oversaw the launch of the Smithsonian's first interactive program devoted to photography at the Smithsonian (see Video here).