Meet the Curators

Part of the Traveling the Silk Road exhibition.

Mark Norell

Mark A. Norell has for the last two decades been one of the team leaders of the joint American Museum of Natural History/Mongolian Academy of Sciences expeditions to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Dr. Norell, who came to the American Museum of Natural History in 1989, was one of the Gobi Desert Expedition team members who discovered Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia, in 1993, the world's richest vertebrate fossil site dating from the Cretaceous. Among the discoveries are the first embryo of a meat-eating dinosaur, the primitive avialian Mononykus, and an Oviraptor found nesting on a brood of eggs, the first evidence of parental care among dinosaurs.

In addition to field work in the Gobi, Patagonia, the Chilean Andes, and the Sahara, Dr. Norell was part of the team that in 1998 announced the discovery in northeastern China of two 120-million-year-old dinosaur species, both of which show unequivocal evidence of true feathers. Currently, he continues work on the evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs and modern birds, has named new dinosaurs, such as Alioramus and Byronosaurus, and has developed new ways of looking at fossils using CT scans and imaging.

Dr. Norell has also curated Museum exhibitions Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries (May 2005), Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids (May 2007), with Laurel Kendall and Richard Ellis, and now Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World. Dr. Norell also lectures to general audiences and writes books and articles for diverse audiences. Discovering Dinosaurs, published by E.J. Knopf in 1995, won Scientific American's Young Readers Book of the Year Award. In 2000, A Nest of Dinosaurs was given an Orbis Pictus award by the National Council of Teachers as a noteworthy title. Finally, Unearthing the Dragon was published in 2005 and the coffee-table book The Dinosaur Hunters: The Extraordinary Story of the Men and Women Who Discovered Prehistoric Life was published with coauthor Lowell Dingus in 2008.

Dr. Norell is a Curator and Chair of the Division of Paleontology at the Museum.

Denise Leidy

Denise Leidy is a graduate of Wheaton College and received her master's degree and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Denise became a member of the Department of Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995 and was previously the Assistant Director/Curator of The Asia Society Galleries. She has traveled widely on the Silk Road, and has served as a member of two study groups focusing on the art and culture of Central Asia: a joint Yale University and Luce Foundation group focusing on the Turfan area between 1995 and 1998; and a second team, sponsored by The Silk Road Foundation and the University of Michigan, that worked on Dunhuang and other cave temple sites in 2001. A specialist in Chinese sculpture and decorative arts, Dr. Leidy has also worked with Buddhist traditions throughout Asia. She published The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning in 2009, and wrote a catalog of the Chinese Buddhist and Daoist sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, published in 2011.

In addition to installations in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection galleries, Denise has curated several exhibitions including: Glimpses of the Silk Road: Central Asian in the First Millennium, which she co-curated with Dr. Valtz; Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer; and Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth Century China. She was part of the team that presented the ground-breaking China: Dawn of a Golden Age in 2004, as well as a member of the group that curated The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West in 2000. She also worked with colleagues in the Department of Asian Art on the 2010 exhibition The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty. 

William Honeychurch

William Honeychurch is an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University and a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution. He studies the archaeology of ancient nomadic political organization in Mongolia. Nomadic groups of the Eurasian steppe organized large-scale states and empires from the first millennium BCE and are best known for the world empire constructed by Genghis Khan. How and why outlying groups of pastoralists assembled such monumental and complex polities is a topic that archaeology is well suited to explore using the material remains left by horse nomads over the past 3,000 years on the steppes of Mongolia. Dr. Honeychurch's field projects in Mongolia employ regional survey to discover and map cemeteries, habitation sites, walled fortresses, rock art, and ceremonial areas. Survey work is followed up with settlement and mortuary excavations to answer questions about how early nomads inhabited Mongolian landscapes during different periods of prehistory. Silk Road trade and interaction was an important part of the political economy of many early steppe states. In addition to academic journal and edited volume publications, Dr. Honeychurch co-edited the book Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire (2009).