USC Pacific Asia Museum names Skirball curator as its new director

Bethany Montagano is the new director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times; Vanessa Preziose)

The USC Pacific Asia Museum has named cultural historian Bethany Montagano its new director, the Pasadena institution announced Thursday.

Montagano will begin in May. She succeeds interim director Selma Holo, who led a search committee made up of USC administrators, faculty and artists.

Montagano most recently served as senior curator at L.A.’s Skirball Cultural Center, where she curated the 2018 show “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” and the 2016 exhibition “Pop for the People: Roy Lichtenstein in L.A.,” among others. Previously she worked for the Smithsonian Institution and played a role in opening the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Montagano received her bachelor’s degree in Asian studies, her master’s in museum studies and her doctorate in American history.

The entrance to the USC Pacific Asia Museum in December 2017.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

“This is an exciting time for the USC Pacific Asia Museum, the first U.S. university museum exclusively dedicated to the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands,” said USC Provost Michael Quick in a statement. “We are sure that Dr. Montagano’s energy and expertise in the museum field will revitalize the exhibitions, programs, and cultural outreach.”


Established in 1971, USC Pacific Asia Museum has a collection of 17,000 objects spanning more than 4,000 years and stretching from Persia to the Pacific Islands. The museum closed for 17 months to undergo a seismic retrofit, reopening in December 2017.