The first Exhibitionist —published in October, 1981— describes the founding of NAME:
"Exhibition Group Formed"
"Jim Casey and his exhibition department staff at the Indianapolis Children's Museum acted as hosts for a pair of meetings during this year's annual AAM Conference in that city at which the nucleus of an organization devoted to museum exhibition and installation was formed. A breakfast meeting on Monday, June 8, 1981, attracted over 80 people who expressed an interest in joining others in some sort of a cohesive group to encourage communications between those who design, plan, build and install exhibits in museums. The response was very gratifying and a steering committee was selected to plan a second session the following day. The steering committee is composed of Jim Casey, Ed Bedno (Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC), George S. Gardner (American Museum of Natural History, New York), John Brooks and Alex Black (also Indianapolis Children's Museum) and Elizabeth Hilferty (A Couple of Designers, Inc., Athens, Ohio)."
"A second session was held on Tuesday, June 9, 1981, in the Exhibition Department at the Children's Museum. A general discussion was held at which time opinions were voiced on the major objectives of the organization, now called National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME). Three objectives are: to promote excellence in the creation and installation of museum exhibitions, to provide a means of communicating among museum exhibition professionals, to organize workshops and seminars on design and all other aspects of museum exhibition."
"The long range goal will be to establish a Standing Professional Committee on Museum Exhibition within the framework of AAM. A by-laws sub-committee was formed with Jonathan Jager (Country Folk Music Foundation, Nashville) as Chairman to draft a set of by-laws under which such a committee can operate. The draft has been completed and is being reviewed by the steering committee."
"Since a period of one to two years may pass before such a Standing Professional Committee can become part of AAM, it was thought that the National Association for Museum Exhibition should exist as a separate entity. Therefore, membership in this organization is encouraged so that when the Standing Committee is put up for acceptance in the AAM on a permanent basis there will be a strong membership in an existing professional organization."
Subsequently, NAME was led by the following presidents:
- 1st President, George Gardner, 1981-1985
- 2nd President, Howard Taylor, 1985-1987
- 3rd President, Louise DeMars, 1987-1991
- 4th President, Roger Vandiver, 1991-1992
- 5th President, Lynne Friman, 1992-1994
- 6th President, Jim Walther, 1994-1996
- 7th President, Michael Pierce, 1996-1998
- 8th President, Whitney Watson, 1998-2000
- 9th President, Kristine Hastreiter, 2000-2004
- 10th President, Phyllis Rabineau, 2004-2008
- 11th President, Eric Siegel, 2008-2010
- 12th President, Douglas Simpson, 2010-2014
- 13th President, Wayne Labar, 2014-present