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Leslee Michelsen, Ph.D.

Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Shangri La

Dr. Leslee Michelsen is the curator of collections and exhibitions at Shangri La Museum in Honolulu, where she leads the team responsible for the exhibition, interpretation, and conservation of the museum’s collection of historic and contemporary art.

Her recent work includes co-curated exhibitions with artists Jordan Nassar, Hayv Kahraman, Faig Ahmed and Kamran Samimi as well as the "Silk Web" exhibition of contemporary Central Asian art, curated for the Dowse Art Museum in New Zealand. In 2021 she co-curated the seminal conference “Ceramics from Islamic Lands” with her V&A colleague Dr. Mariam Rosser-Owen.

Dr. Michelsen has worked with museums, artists, cultural heritage management projects and archaeological sites in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan—including curating new artworks, advising on the renovation of medieval architecture and writing UNESCO World Heritage applications and site management plans. She has lectured in Islamic art history at Dickinson College, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul, the Parsons Paris School of Art + Design and the Silk Road University in Samarkand.

She earned her Ph.D. in Islamic art history and archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. From 2015 to 2016 she consulted for UNESCO Afghanistan on the Bamiyan Cultural Center and was the head of curatorial and research at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar from 2011 to 2015. While at MIA, Dr. Michelsen curated the exhibitions “Ferozkoh: Tradition and Continuity in Afghan Art” (2013 - Doha; 2014 - London, Leighton House Museum) and “Marvellous Creatures: Animal Fables in Islamic Art” (2015-Doha; 2017-Toronto, Aga Khan Museum), and she co-wrote the accompanying catalogues.

Dr. Michelsen sits on the board of directors of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) of the United States, as well as on the steering committee of Steppe Sisters, an organization dedicated to women researching the myriad human histories of Central and Inner Asia. From 2019 to 2021, she was a juror for the museums panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2014 to 2017, she served on the Museums Committee of the College Art Association, and has served on the Executive Board Nominating Committee (2015) and the Sevcenko Prize Jury (2016) for the Historians of Islamic Art Association.