bravo affiliates! kudos for december ’09 / january ’10

In these tough times, it’s nice to see some bright spots.  We’d like to acknowledge the following Affiliates for their hard work and accomplishments.

The Museum of Arts and Sciences (Macon, GA) received a $10,000 grant from College Hill Corridor to hold a spring break day camp at Tattnall Square Park.

Ellie Donovan has been named Executive Director of Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA). Donovan has been associated with the museum since 1974, including serving as acting executive director since March. 

Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, MI)earned the 2009 Dorothy Howard Folklore and Education Prize from American Folklore Society (AFS) for their publication “Folk Arts in Education: A Resource Handbook II,” a resource for educators to bring young people in touch with their communities, their ethnic identities and the authentic cultural expressions of their own families.

An anonymous $6 million donation to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (Biloxi, MS) will fund construction on the Center for Ceramics, the fourth largest of the Frank Gehry buildings planned for the site.

Western Heritage Center (Billings, MT) received a $29,000 grant from the Montana Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program to replace an old boiler and install humidity control equipment.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, NC) received a $4 million grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.  The grant will fund the centerpiece of the Museum’s planned Nature Research Center – a three-story multimedia program area for announcing key environmental issues and recent scientific discoveries.

Strategic Air and Space Museum (Ashland, NE) has been awarded a $200,000 federal grant through the Community Development Block Grant program. The money will be used for the repair and upgrade of various building projects.

The Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, PA) announced its accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

Wisconsin Maritime Museum  (Manitowoc, WI) won three Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards for their documentary  “Lost and Found: Legacy of USS Lagarto,” about the submarine, built in Manitowoc during World War II, that was lost in the Gulf of Siam (now Thailand) and rediscovered in 2005.

bravo all!

affiliates in the news: week of november 23

Congratulations to all the Affiliates making headlines this week!

New York State Museum (Albany, New York)
NYSGS to play key role in national geothermal energy search
Geological Survey gets $280G federal DOE grant

San Diego Natural History Museum
(San Diego, California)
The Bug Counters

Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, Massachusetts)
It’s time to talk turkey about Thanksgiving traditions
Thanksgiving Day Facts: Pilgrims, Dinner, Parades, More

Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Ogden Museum Announces Retirement of Director J. Richard Gruber
Ogden director Rick Gruber retires

Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana)
MSU study explores violent world of raptors
Violent World of Raptors Explored

Arizona State Museum (Tucson, Arizona)
Scratching the surface of the Arizona State Museum

Dallas Museum of Nature and Science
(Dallas, Texas)
Museum of Nature & Science Breaks Ground on $185-Million Museum

adiós to a good friend

Juan explains an exhibition concept during the Developing Exhibitions workshop in Washington, DC, June 2009

Juan explains an exhibition concept during the Developing Exhibitions workshop in Washington, DC, June 2009

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Juan Pastoriza, a good friend and long-time collaborator with Smithsonian Affiliations.  Juan passed away on November 10, and will be greatly missed by his many colleagues, friends and family.

Juan was the director of the Museum and Center of Humanistic Studies at the Universidad del Turabo in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.  Recognizing a need for professional museum studies training on the Island, Juan worked with the Smithsonian to create a 4-part series of week-long workshops, leading to a certificate in Museum Studies.  Spanning collections care, public programming, exhibition development, and administration, Juan’s work touched scores of museum professionals in Puerto Rico, who went on to staff the Island’s museums, cultural organizations and municipal arts councils. 

Starting in 2002, the Smithsonian began sending its staff to Puerto Rico to lead and teach classes.  The entire Smithsonian was represented through these workshops, from curators to conservators, educators to administrators.  In some summers (2006 and 2009), Juan led a group of his peers to Washington, to go behind-the-scenes at the Smithsonian to experience museum practice first-hand.  In 2008, Juan worked with the Smithsonian to explore federal funding programs, attracting representatives from the NEA, NEH, IMLS, NSF, and the National Park Service to Puerto Rico, to discuss the details of writing successful federal grants.  Regardless of the location or topic, it was clear that Juan was committed to training the next generation of Puerto Rican museum professionals, and in the process, inspired his colleagues at the Smithsonian to be the best examples we could be.

The director of Smithsonian Affiliations, Harold Closter, offered these words of dedication, read at Juan’s memorial service on November 17 at the Universidad del Turabo:

Dear friends and members of the Pastoriza family,

We are deeply saddened by the news of Juan’s passing and reach out to all of you with our sympathies, compassion and love.  Juan touched our hearts and minds in ways that have changed us all, and in ways that we will never forget.  With a disarming smile and a gentle manner, he challenged us to be better teachers, better museum professionals, and better people.

The Smithsonian Institution owes Juan Pastoriza a great debt of gratitude for conceiving and organizing the annual Museum Studies Certificate program at the Universidad del Turabo.  The program was more than an academic exercise.  It was Juan’s way of preserving the heritage and traditional culture of Puerto Rico, a heritage he loved deeply and worked so hard for, by utilizing the resources of the Smithsonian to help train a new generation of Puerto Rican museum professionals. Through Juan, we had the privilege of working with the best and the brightest – museum staff, artists, community leaders, and passionate students.  Juan’s genius was to create an environment that eliminated the distinction between teacher and student.  Through Juan, we came together in a great circle of friendship and mutual learning. Juan and his students were often our teachers; from them learned as much as we imparted.

Each of us has strong memories of Juan – of his kindness, of his commitment, and of his probing mind.  He never stopped questioning and pushing us to unlock doors – doors that we couldn’t even name — that would make our work accessible and more useful to him and his students.  Because of Juan we have grown professionally and personally, and for that we shall be forever grateful.

A person like Juan is a gift that one experiences, if one is lucky, once in a lifetime. We were fortunate to receive this gift.  We know that Juan can never be replaced and we will miss him dearly.  He was a blessing whose presence enriched our lives and whose work will live on through all the people he touched. 

Adiós a nuestro amigo y hermano.  May your spirit continue to inspire us to honor the heritage and culture of your people, and the beauty and humanity of all people, everywhere. 

All of Juan’s Friends and Admirers at the
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC

affiliates in the news: week of november 16

news

Congratulations to all the Affiliates making headlines this week.

CALIFORNIA
Discovery Science Center (Santa Ana)
Building a love of science

Arts Council for Long Beach (Long Beach)
Antonio Pedro Ruiz To Receive Arts Council Award

Chabot Space and Science Center (Oakland)
Chabot Debunks 2010 Predictions
What’s Up at Chabot: Full-dome show explores Mayans’ astrological contributions

GEORGIA
High Museum of Art (Atlanta)
High Names Michael Rooks New Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
High Museum picks new mod art curator
Michael Rooks Joins High Museum Of Art

INDIANA
Conner Prairie (Fishers)
Conner Prairie Faring Well During Downturn

LOUISIANA
National WWII Museum (New Orleans)
War’s story told on film

MONTANA
Western Heritage Center (Billings)
Tourism grant awarded to Heritage Center

Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
The Top 8 Dinosaur Discoveries of 2009
New Dinosaur Extinction
FOR KIDS: The paleontologist and the three dinosaurs
Skulls thought to be from three different dinosaurs may actually be from the same dino type at three different ages
Former reptile wrangler now wins awards for fossil photos

NORTH CAROLINA
Charlotte Museum of History (Charlotte)
Day of songs, dancing and storytelling: American Indian Heritage Month celebration teaches ‘we are one tribe.’

OREGON
Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (McMinnville)
FLIR donates high tech display to Evergreen Aviation Museum

PENNSYLVANIA
Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh)
Hop a ride through the region’s past as ‘Railroad Town’

RHODE ISLAND
Heritage Harbor Museum (Providence)
Backers of Providence’s Heritage Harbor hopeful despite funding setbacks

SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina State Museum (Columbia)
State Museum Expansion Project Looks to Local Governments

WASHINGTON
Whatcom Museum (Bellingham)
Whatcom Museum Opens The Lightcatcher: New $18.3 Million Facility
Lightcatcher grand opening

Wing Luke Asian Museum (Seattle) and Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Michigan)
Exhibits of Conscience: A nationwide initiative pulls museums into one of today’s most highly charged issues: immigration

Well done!

sleepless in seattle

There is so much going on at Smithsonian Affiliates in and around Seattle that one can hardly sleep.  Of course being in the heart of America’s coffee capital only adds to this condition.

Entrance to the Museum of Flight

Entrance to the Museum of Flight

This trip started on November 12 at the Museum of Flight, a sparkling and sprawling Affiliate, just south of the city, appropriately recognized as the world’s largest private not-for-profit air and space museum.  Under the dynamic leadership of Bonnie Dunbar, five-time space shuttle astronaut, the museum hosts such remarkables as the first Boeing 747, Air Force One, and a supersonic Concorde.  Astronaut John Young’s spacesuit and various examples of space food, on loan from the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), are also on display in the main building.  I was pleased to run into Dan Hagedorn, formerly of NASM and now senior curator at the museum. Dan’s voluminous knowledge of aircraft and aviation history kept me spellbound for hours. I think of Dan as our permanent loan to the museum.  He is complemented by an enthusiastic set of colleagues who, like the pioneers of flight, are continually dreaming up new ways to expand the museum’s innovative exhibitions and education programs.  Soar on!

A striking installation at the Wing Luke Asian Museum

A striking installation at the Wing Luke Asian Museum

The Wing Luke Asian Museum, in the heart of Seattle’s International District, flies to the heart of Seattle’s complex history as a home for generations of Asian and Pacific Island Americans.  The small community museum led for many years by visionary Ron Chew, and now directed by the equally inspiring Beth Takekawa, recently reopened around the corner in a not so small historic building, brilliantly transformed by the architectural firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen.  The renovation allows for contemporary art and community culture displays while preserving the original spaces occupied by workers, family associations, and merchants.  On view at this time are Roger Shimomura’s provocative and disturbing  “yellow terror” artifacts and his paintings that explore and expose the cruelty and harm of stereotyping.

The new Light Catcher building of the Whatcom Museum of History and Art

The new Lightcatcher building of the Whatcom Museum of History and Art

About ninety miles up the coast, in Bellingham, Washington stands the Whatcom Museum of History and Art, an important repository of Northwest  history and culture, and the ultimate destination of this trip. On November 13 the Whatcom celebrated the opening of it new “Lightcatcher” building, an exquisite facility, also designed by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, that will rehouse the museum’s art collection and showcase new collections and acquisitions.  It was an honor to join director Patricia Leach, Mayor Dan Pike, the Board and all the local supporters in applauding this great community accomplishment. Bellingham was famous as the jumping off point for the great Alaska gold rush, but the hard work of many in this city, has unearthed the local gold of good will and artistic creativity.  We are delighted that the Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s very relevant exhibition, 1934: A New Deal for the Arts, will be the featured jewel at the Whatcom in 2010.  

Smithsonian Affiliates in Seattle and Bellingham offer so many amazing opportunities for learning and discovery, that what I lacked for in sleep I made up for in inspiration.  Pour me another cup of coffee!

musings from the new england museum association

SI Astrophysical Observatory's Black Holes exhibition, on view at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH

SI Astrophysical Observatory's Black Holes exhibition, on view at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH

One of the most interesting questions I heard asked at the New England Museum Association conference last week was, what’s the new non-profit normal?   There was a sense that both retrenching and rethinking are in order, but that steering museums through these turbulent times will produce changes that will last far beyond the economic crisis and our eventual recovery.

The new director of Affliate Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA), offered one such road map.  It’s hyper-attentive visitor experience, and a zero tolerance for unsatisfactory comments.  One of the results of recent visitor surveys at Plimoth revealed that 93% of their visitors report a very satisfactory experience.  Pretty good right?!  Except for director Ellie Donovan, a missionary for high-quality visitor experience in every regard.  She recognizes that the other 7% represent 25,000 people who are not shopping in the store for things to remember a bad experience, and are not saying nice things to their friends.  In short, that 7% represent thousands of dollars of potentially lost revenue, that no museum or historical site can stand to lose.  A powerful argument.     

The keynote speaker at NEMA made a nuanced plea for new non-profit normal too, that is, how museums need to step up to their role as builders of social capital in a community.  Social capital is a metric, measured by community and state by such statistics as the number of active voters, volunteerism, crime rates, even TV-watching rates (a negative indicator).  Unsurprisingly, his research has shown that, the higher the social capital, the higher are other rates of happiness indicators – education achievement, lower incarceration rates, etc.  Lewis Feldstein, President of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, challenged all the museum professionals present to ask themselves how their organizations are building social capital.  Do new immigrants come to your museum to learn about the community’s history or cultural activity?  Do local civic groups call you to use your facilities for meetings?  Is your staff serving on community boards, active and visible members of civic life in your city?  All (and more) are important questions for establishing the relevancy of museums to the contexts of their communities.

But not all the discussions at the conference were that deep and soul-searching.  I was lucky to see Black Holes: Space Warps and Time Twists, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory, at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH.  (Ok, how many knew that Christa McAuliffe was a high school social studies teacher from Concord, NH High School?  Or that the quote, “I touch the future, I teach,” was hers?!)  It was a wonderfully interactive exhibit with a variety of media stations that allow the visitor to weigh black holes and dive into them, among other activities.    And I met the young enthusiastic safari-clad staff of scvngr – a do-it-yourself interface template for creating location-based, high-tech, mobile games.  So very fun.

Overall, a very pleasant, thought-provoking week in New England.  How about you – what’s the chatter at your regional association or museum?