Dr. Herman J. Viola

Herman Viola

Dr. Herman J. Viola is a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution, accomplished author, and longstanding educator. In 1972, he became director of the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The archives are one of the largest collections of American Indian documents, photographs, and art in the United States. As director, Dr. Viola initiated the Native American Cultural Resources Training Program, the Smithsonian’s first internship program for American Indians. Through that program he befriended numerous Native Americans who shared his interest in collecting and preserving tribal cultural materials and, thanks to these friendships, Dr. Viola began to hear remarkable stories of how Native Americans have served in the Armed Forces of the United States since the beginning of our republic, stories that were virtually unknown outside of tribal communities and certainly not recorded in our nation’s textbooks. Recognizing that an important part of U.S. history was undocumented, Dr. Viola set out to record these stories, thereby ensuring that future generations of Americans--Indians, and non-Indians alike – would be aware of this legacy of patriotism and heroism. The result was his seminal book, Warriors in Uniform: The Legacy of American Indian Heroism which foreshadowed the creation of the Warriors in Uniform educational website and database. Dr. Viola’s most recent work, Warrior Spirit: The Story of American Indian Patriotism and Heroism, continues the story of Native American participation in our country’s military, and further illuminates the struggle, culture, and contributions made by Native Americans in the U.S. military and to the United States.

Dr. Viola has been a consultant to museums and educational organizations and taught at several universities. His other important published works include Exploring the West, After Columbus, Warrior Artists, and The North American Indians. He also authored Why We Remember, a middle school social studies textbook.

Dr. Viola recently served as the historian on the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee for the U.S. Mint and was the senior advisor for the National Native American Veterans Memorial which opened on Veteran’s Day 2020 on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Prior to his retirement from the Smithsonian in 1994, Dr. Viola directed two major exhibitions at the National Museum of Natural History: “Magnificent Voyagers,” highlighting the US Exploring Expedition conducted from 1838 to 1842, and “Seeds of Change,” the story of the exchange of plants, animals, and diseases between the Old and New Worlds as a result of the Christopher Columbus voyages.

Before joining the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Viola was an archivist at the National Archives and Records Service where he launched the prize-winning quarterly Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives.

Dr. Viola received his Ph.D. in American history from Indiana University and his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from Marquette University. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has received numerous professional and scholarly awards, including a Merit Award from Marquette University and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Wittenberg University.