Carolyn Russo earned her BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and has worked at the Museum since 1988. She serves as a museum specialist with the Museum's art collection where she assists senior curator Tom Crouch with art acquisitions and the planning of new exhibitions, and as a photographer where she develops research projects for exhibitions and book publications. She is also the curator of the Museum’s Trophy Collection and Poster Collection.
She is author of four books: Art of the Airport Tower (Washington, DC; Smithsonian Books, 2015), In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight (New York: powerHouse Books, 2007), Artifacts of Flight (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003), and Women and Flight: Portraits of Contemporary Women Pilots (Boston, New York, London; Bulfinch Press, 1997).
Russo served as the photographer and curator of the exhibitions Art of the Airport Tower (Washington, DC; Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum November 2015 – November 2016), In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight on tour from 2009 to 2015, and Women and Flight: Portraits of Contemporary Women Pilots, a widely circulated seven-year Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service traveling exhibition. In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight was awarded second prize in the 2008 American Association of Museums (AAM) Publications Design Competition. Artifacts of Flight received awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts 50 Books/50 Covers Competition and the American Association of Museums AAM Publications Design Competition.
She was the curator of the Alan Bean: Painting Apollo, First Artist on Another World exhibition from July 16, 2009 – January 13, 2010, Aircraft: The Jet as Art by Jeffrey Milstein from November 25, 2011 – November 25, 2012, Searching for Goldilocks by Angela Palmer from July 26, 2013 – December 1, 2013, and co-curator for High Art: A Decade of Collecting July 26, 2013 – December 1, 2013.
In September 2009, Russo was invited to Finland by the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki to lecture throughout the country. In 2011, she was one of 30 westerners invited to exhibit her photographs at the International Photography Festival in Lishui, China. In 2015, Russo served as the enrichment lecturer for Smithsonian Journeys aboard Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator from Miami, Florida to the Amazon, Brazil.