Smithsonian Institution Seeking Director of SITES

November 13th, 2014 - Posted in Uncategorized by Mary Mathias

The Smithsonian Institution is seeking an individual to lead its major outreach program – the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Founded in 1952, SITES has long established itself as one of the largest, most trusted traveling exhibition services in the world, and serves as the Institution’s main exhibits ambassador beyond Washington, D.C. SITES shares the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people through a wide range of exhibitors – from major museums and universities, to schools, libraries, and rural community centers. SITES collaborates with museums and national organizations with like-minded missions to extend the reach of the Smithsonian.

This is an excellent opportunity for a creative, multi-disciplinary thinker to develop and oversee a pan-Institutional outreach program. The ideal candidate will have experience in fundraising and managing a complex budget, possess core exhibition knowledge and entrepreneurial instincts, be able to build coalitions internally and externally, and have strong project and staff management skills.

SITES is reinvigorating its program and embarking on change. New adapted strategic and business plans are guiding the transition. There remains extensive latitude to further refine the business model in support of the Smithsonian’s mission and strategic plan.

At the Smithsonian, the Director of SITES is considered a peer to the Directors of the national museums, research and education centers, and zoological park. Unlike an independent organization, SITES is part of a unique community of practice: the SITES Director is part of a cohort of leaders of some of the most visited and revered museums in the world, along with major programs devoted to education and access beyond Washington.

This position represents the chance to develop and refine business management and fundraising skill sets in a unique environment with a national, and potentially global reach. In this position, an individual will develop a strategic vision, raise the organization’s profile, and lead organizational change in a museum and research organization – skill sets that translate well to future opportunities.

This is a Trust position with a salary range of $120,749 to $181,500. The Director reports to the Under Secretary for Education and Access and is a member of Smithsonian leadership team. This position is located in the heart of Washington, D.C with an office comprised of approximately 45 FTEs and 10-15 interns/contractors.

The Smithsonian Institution receives approximately 70% of its funding through Congressional appropriations and the remaining 30% comes from Trust funds – revenue generated by the Smithsonian’s business enterprises and non-government funding. SITES operates a combined Federal, Trust, Gift and Grants annual budget of approximately $9 to 10M.

The Smithsonian offers excellent benefit to its Trust employees. Highlighted below are

  • Smithsonian offers a Defined Contribution retirement plan with TIAA-CREF and contributes 12% up to the social security wage base rate of $118,500 for tax year 2015. Once the social security base rate is reached for the specific tax year, then the employer contribution increases to 17% up to maximum salary of $265,000. You are immediately vested in your employer contributions.
  • Smithsonian offers various health insurance plans and pays a portion of the health insurance premiums. Life insurance, long-term disability insurance, voluntary accidental death and dismemberment insurance (VADD) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) are additional insurance options available to employees.
  • The Smithsonian provides Transit Pass Program and Pretax Commuter benefits. The transit subsidy for eligible enrolled participants is $130/month. Under the pretax commuter plan, Smithsonian allows pretax deductions for parking (up to $250/month).
  • There are 10 paid holidays; annual leave is accrued 8 hours per pay period; and sick leave is accrued 4 hours per pay period.
  • The Smithsonian also offers rich programs of services and opportunities to balance and enhance your work life. They include: professional interest groups and committees, employee advocacy groups, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, lectures and events, discounts on museum shops and restaurants. These and other programs have made the Smithsonian one of the top 10 places to work in the government.

Resumes can be submitted directly to Suleyka Lozins at, (202) 633-6334, or Greg Bettwy at, (202) 633-6287.

Q&A with Rabiah Mayas: Taking Science Beyond Lab Coats

October 23rd, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, Q&A by Emily Schuster

Interviewed by Joelle Seligson

This interview appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

“An old person in a lab coat”: This is the stereotypical image of a scientist that Rabiah Mayas works to dismiss. As director of science and integrated strategies at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), Chicago, Mayas helps fulfill the museum’s mission to inspire and motivate children of all backgrounds to achieve their full potential in science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

Read the full transcript, or listen to the podcast below.

About the image: Rabiah Mayas in the Fab Lab. Photo by J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry

Museum Open House & Museum Cinema Day

October 22nd, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

After three days of informative, inspiring sessions, and riveting discussions, ASTC 2014 attendees had to opportunity to explore the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, host of the 2014 ASTC Annual Conference, for Museum Open House Day. The day was filled with special events, such as a live video conference in the Daily Planet Theater with the National Reef Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Reef HQ Aquarium in Australia, and an “Action for Nature” panel with North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences director Emlyn Koster and some of the nation’s top youth environmentalists. Attendees could also see the inner workings of the museum with behind-the-scenes tours, from exhibit development and fabrication to animal management. Other activities included solar viewing through the museum’s rooftop telescope with museum astronomers, live amphibian examinations and sample collection by veterinary staff at the Window on Animal Health, and a fun-filled show from science comedian Brain Malow.

Conference attendees could also see the latest giant screen films throughout the day at nearby Marbles Kids Museum for Museum Cinema Day, sponsored by the Giant Screen Cinema Association.

Thank you to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, our sponsors, volunteers, and attendees for making the 2014 ASTC Annual Conference an amazing event. We’ll see you next year in Montreal!



Best Practices for Social Media

October 21st, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Emily Schuster

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 73% of online U.S. adults now use some kind of social media, and 42% use multiple social networking sites. So how can science centers and museums best harness social media to engage audiences and advance their institutional goals?

On Sunday afternoon, Lauren Frieband of the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, led “Best Practices for Social Media,” a session packed with social media case studies, tips, and best practices from panelists Kalie Sacco of the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education; Nancy Somers of Science North, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; Janet Noe of the Lawrence Hall of Science; and Mike Steger of TELUS World of Science, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here are some of the top tips and best practices:

  • Make it fun.
  • Find useful tools. (Panelists recommended Tweet Archivist, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, RebelMouse, and Woobox.)
  • Provide opportunities to interact.
  • Engage influencers.
  • Keep it brief.
  • Build social media into your marketing/communications plan.
  • Use #, @, and imagery.
  • Use the platform that works for you and your audience.
  • Foster good relationships between staff scientists and marketing staff to get more science in your social media content.
  • Empower your staff (including scientists) to have access to your social media accounts—but if you have multiple staff members creating social media content, be sure you are consistent in how you communicate.
  • Look at your analytics and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work.
  • Try organizing a sweepstakes or contest. Make it fun, interactive, simple, easy, and quick.
  • Leverage the power of celebrity. Involve celebrities in exhibition openings or other events and fan the flames with social media (as TELUS World of Science Edmonton did by involving James and Oliver Phelps, who play the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter movies, in the opening events for the Harry Potter: The Exhibition). Get to know your local concierges—they may send celebrities your way!

Halfway through the session, attendees were let loose into the Exhibit Hall to find something they thought was cool about science (something that shows science has “swagger”) and share it on social media using the hashtag #socialswag. By the end of the conference, analytics showed #socialswag had more than 94,000 impressions (i.e., the number of times the hashtag was displayed in different social media accounts).

Where is the Science in a Maker Space?

October 20th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

The debate over the value of maker spaces continued on Monday afternoon with “Where is the Science in a Maker Space?” led by Hooley McLaughlin from the Ontario Science Centre. Building off of a similarly divisive session from ASTC 2013, presenters Lisa Brahms from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Karen Wilkinson from the Exploratorium, San Francisco, and Paul Orselli of POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop) described their work with maker spaces while McLaughlin took the (unpopular) anti-maker space stance.

McLaughlin started the session by stating his view that maker spaces are a danger to science centers (followed by a great deal of murmured dissent from attendees). In his opinion, science centers should be educating visitors with classic methods on the basic principles of science so that visitors have a stronger foundation on which to build their interest and knowledge of STEM subjects. McLaughlin believes that while all experimental scientists are makers, putting people in an environment where they get to be makers will not make them think like a scientist. Often participants are just moving things around and not thinking about the process. Needless to say, the panel and many maker professionals in attendance did not agree, leading to a lively and passionate discussion.

Orselli pointed out that many museums are not clear on what their criteria for a successful maker space should be or how it should be measured. He said that asking where the science is in a maker space is a bit of a red herring, since a lot of what maker spaces are about is the learning process and developing abstract thinking. Maker spaces may be spreading like wild fire, but that doesn’t mean everything that came before will be destroyed. This led to a larger discussion about what the overall purpose of a maker space should be. Wilkinson stated that science centers should be the biggest, broadest playground for science exploration in many forms, and Brahms added that the maker movement has sparked a new conversation about learning and thinking about learning as a social process. Attendees were very vocal in their support for maker spaces using “scientific play” as the gateway to a deeper interest and understanding of science.

Brahms then discussed her recent study based on a text analysis of Make magazine that showed that making activities corresponded with many learning disciplines and learning practices. She also stated that through making, children are learning how to set and reach goals and how to work with others. At the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s Makeshop, the goal is not science or science learning, but simply learning. This led to a discussion of the “maker space” brand. There are museums that have received funding and built maker spaces without knowing what to do with the space, or that have simply renamed craft areas as maker spaces. These less purposeful maker spaces dilute the term and bring down the overall impression of maker spaces. However, just because the maker movement is popular and museums around the world are jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t mean that making and tinkering are not effective.

Overall, this thought provoking discussion brought out a plethora of opinions on the maker movement and the debate is sure to continue. Resources and research on learning in maker spaces is being compiled at, a project from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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