Fort Worth Museum of Science and History puts women at the forefront in new exhibit

IF/THEN: An Initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is an IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant recipient. Twenty-six ASTC-member museums received funding to launch projects aimed at increasing the representation of women and gender minorities in STEM across their museums’ content. This grant program is supported by the IF/THEN Initiative, a national effort sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers while creating a culture shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was founded by 16 tenacious women in 1941 as a children’s museum designed to engage and inspire local families. In 1955, the museum made Charlie Mary Noble—teacher and organizer of the Fort Worth Astronomy Club—the namesake for our Noble Planetarium, one of the only planetariums in the United States named after a woman.

Although women formed the backbone of our institution, our exhibits demonstrated a striking lack of women depicted in our content: women only represented 11% of STEM professionals featured in our exhibits. Through the resources provided by the IF/THEN® Initiative, we sought to improve the representation of women in our museum and were inspired to create a brand new exhibit, Changemakers: Local Women, Global Impact, centered around showcasing women in the past and present who made Fort Worth and the Southwest a hub for innovation and inspiration.

Museum exhibit featuring photographs of women in STEM fields.
Changemakers: Local Women, Global Impact pop-up exhibit

Our project was shaped, like many others, by concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a museum that has historically prided itself on interactive, hands-on, in-person experiences, the adjustment to a socially distanced world necessitated the creation of a project that took on the needs of the present while preparing for the concerns of the future.

Central to this new project was our IF/THEN: Women in STEM video series, a mini-series as a part of our Discovery Lab Online platform, uploaded to our YouTube channel. We sat down with five incredible AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors to learn about their research, inspirations, and advice for young people. The Ambassadors were excellent communicators: engaging, kind, and excited to be a part of our project.

Photo from “Building Telescopes with Dr. Erika Hamden” 
Photo from “Searching the Quantum Foam with Dr. Jessica Esquivel
Photo from From “Studying Poop with Dr. Julie Mirpuri”

We talked about the trials and tribulations of launching telescopes with Dr. Erika Hamden, explored the quantum foam with Dr. Jessica Esquivel, found out why “Stool is Cool” in the world of Dr. Julie Mirpuri, jumped head first into the math of information with Dr. Minerva Cordero, and discovered the importance of universal diagnostics with Dr. Harshi Mukundan. These women were of diverse backgrounds and fields, but all had one thing in common: they had ties to Texas or the Southwest. This highlights our emphasis on finding role models locally, while thinking about the global impact of their STEM research.

Due to the recent winter storms, only our online experience is currently available. To view our Women in STEM online series, visit our YouTube Channel.

Smiling woman.

This post was contributed by Erica Schumann, a Development Team Member at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

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