Several ASTC-member institutions and science center professionals have been recognized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) with 2023 awards for their leadership and excellence within the museum field. Awards will be presented at the 2023 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo later this month in Denver, Colorado.
Nancy Hanks Award for Rising Stars
To highlight and celebrate the vital role that museum workers play in building thriving museums, strong communities, and a better world, the Nancy Hanks Memorial Awards for Rising Stars recognize museum professionals age 40 or under who are making an impact in their institutions, communities, and the museum field.
David and Jane Cohn Scientist
Science Museum of Virginia
Jeremy Hoffman wants to empower people to solve community problems with science. With his PhD in paleoclimatology and multi-modal communication skills, he unabashedly pursues all forms of communication, including music videos, large-scale visualizations, and theater productions, to excite people in their knowledge of science and climate change. Recognizing the importance of direct engagement with youth on climate change, and working with the local nonprofit Groundwork RVA, he mobilized community members to serve as citizen scientists and map the urban heat island in Richmond, VA. This community science effort discovered a 16-degree heat difference between cooler, wealthier neighborhoods, and poorer, hotter neighborhoods. The youth and community members are now working together to implement cooling infrastructure solutions in their neighborhoods! Through this work and other community-based efforts, he is single-handedly modernizing the museum’s approach to climate change and positioning the institution as a leader in climate solutions and youth engagement while centering environmental justice with partners across the environmental spectrum, including transit, housing, and food access nonprofits.
Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives
American Museum of Natural History
New York, New York
Nick is an Assistant Director in Youth Initiatives (YI) at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), a position he has held following multiple promotions since joining YI as a college intern over a decade ago. In his role, Nick is responsible for the strategic direction of youth programs impacting over 600 students annually. A hallmark of his tenure has been Nick’s commitment to equity and working to push and support museums to confront historical and current racism. As an African-American and a native New Yorker, Nick has spearheaded AMNH’s community engagement work, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of Black and Hispanic students served and more progressive financial aid systems to support applicants. In program design, he’s situated youth at the center of their learning by launching a youth advisory council and leading a youth employment program for nearly ten years. Nick’s leadership in broadening representation in the museum sector is seen in his work outside of AMNH with his 2020 publication of “Increasing Museum Capacities for Serving Non-White Audiences” in Curator: The Museum Journal.
Outside of his work at the AMNH, he currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Museum Association of New York where he is the Chair of the Governance and Nominating Committee. He is also an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University and Co-Curating an exhibition in collaboration with the Harlem Gallery of Science.
Recognition for the Advancement of Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion
With the acknowledgment that diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) work is necessarily ongoing and iterative, this recognition highlights important and noteworthy work that is driving impact and making a difference both internally through museum workplace culture, programs, and policies and externally through engagement with museum audiences and communities.
San Francisco, California
Also honored with ASTC’s 2022 Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience
The vision of the STARS (Striving for Trans-Inclusion and Anti-Racism in Science learning) program is to expand inclusion, belonging, and relevance in informal science learning with a focus on addressing inequities based on gender, sexuality, and race. STARS’ innovative educational offerings provide Exploratorium audiences with experiences that center excluded identities in STEAM and education fields. The program builds on the work of the Explainer program: youth and workforce development through transformative learning practices, with the addition of centering the experiences of trans and queer people and people of color.
The STARS program started in 2020 during the museum pandemic closures as a paid virtual internship for transitional aged youth aged 18-25. The program has since evolved to include public programs, high school youth development, and school field trip group support. In the last year the STARS program put on 5 large public programs focused on LGBTQ+ identity for family and adult audiences. The celebrations for Transgender Day of Visibility and Pride at the Exploratorium include a range of happenings from panels of scientists, art pieces and performances, and positive identity formation activities.
The STARS program creates inclusive, identity-centered visitor programming, while also providing workforce development for emerging museum professionals. STARS participants engage in collaborative workforce development, STEAM and education career exposure, build confidence and connection for self-efficacy, practice science communication, and develop and implement learning experiences.
Children’s Creativity Museum
San Francisco, California
The Children’s Creativity Museum (CCM) is a mid-sized children’s museum located in San Francisco within walking distance of some of the poorest families in the Bay Area (i.e., SOMA, Tenderloin, and Chinatown), some of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in the country, and steps from some of the most vicious anti-Asian hate crimes in recent history.
CCM opened in 1998 with an African American Executive Director and an Asian American woman as Chair of the Board of Directors. Since then, and ahead of much of the museum field, CCM has always been led by a leader of color and has placed equity as a core value. The visitors at CCM are over 60% BIPOC, over 50% of the Board and staff are BIPOC, and for 3 of the past 7 years, the Board Chair position has been held by African American and Latino board members.
For years, over 50% of field trips have been provided to Title 1 schools for free and CCM offered free memberships to low-income families. CCM was one of the first participants in Museums for All in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been featured in the San Francisco’s Mayor’s program that expanded eligibility; now 30% of visitors come through access programs.
During the pandemic, the organization undertook a strategic planning process and decided to place “Equity” and “Co-Creation” as the two core values of the institution. The organization has intentionally created partnerships with the local Asian American Pacific Islander communities within walking distance of the museum to deepen the service to the community, especially as it faces unprecedented challenges through the pandemic and anti-Asian bigotry. As a result of these efforts—virtually all funded by general operating funds, not from grants or donors—CCM has hosted two artists-in-residence that were selected by a neighborhood Filipino advocacy group (SOMCAN) and both residencies resulted in public art and significant community engagement. Instead of hosting CCM’s own revenue-generating summer camps, the museum opened up their space for free for a Filipino language summer camp run by a community organization when they were displaced during the pandemic.
While it took 23 months to fully re-open after pandemic closures, CCM used this time to re-imagine what it means to be embedded in a neighborhood and how to truly be of service. The staff have pledged to explore “de-colonized scaling,” the idea that partnerships and true impact (not exploitation) only come through mutual respect, co-creation, and trusting relationships. CCM aspires to be a conduit and broker to imagine solutions for individuals and communities.