A Napa native, Sheli graduated from Justin-Siena High School and went on to study Anthropology at the University of Arizona, eventually specializing in Maritime Archaeology at Texas A&M University and receiving a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. For almost three decades Sheli worked in museums in maritime research and curation. From Maine to Australia, Sheli researched and produced exhibits celebrating maritime heritage. In the 1990s Sheli directed the Newport Nautical Museum and Fort Gibson in Oklahoma, while helping design and launch the online Museum of the Big Blue World. Throughout her career she continually returned to California to work with California State Parks in the study and preservation of the state’s maritime heritage including the Gold Rush shipwrecks La Grange, Clarksburg and Frolic, as wells as establish the start of the Emerald Bay Maritime Trail in Lake Tahoe.
In 2000, Sheli turned her attention and skills to helping create the PAST Foundation, a non-profit focused on developing new and engaging educational models in response to changing workforce needs around the world. Work with PAST once again took Sheli away from California to Ohio where she and the PAST tribe of passionate innovators built the nation’s first independent educational R&D prototyping facility. After fifteen years of developing programs and professional development, Sheli has returned home to the Valley.
Sheli actively participates in a number endeavors that reflect her passion for Education, the Arts, and Anthropology including California State Parks Diving Advisory, Ohio’s Shadowbox Live Educational Advisory, and the international Advisory Council for Underwater Archaeology. Sheli joins the NCHS Board interested in growing NCHS Valley alliances and educational programming.
The NCHS Board of Directors has nominated Dr. Sheli O. Smith as the Board Vice President for the 2020/2021 term. Please view our 73rd Annual Meeting paperwork.