Photo by Brent Fuchs.
Photo by Brent Fuchs.

[dropcap]Sherry[/dropcap] Marshall, the new president and CEO of Science Museum Oklahoma, didn’t have much research to do when she started her position in December. The Oklahoma City native visited the museum, then known as the Omniplex, as a child and first joined the facility as a museum educator in 1994 before serving as director of education and director of the Oklahoma Museum Network. We caught up with Marshall and got her thoughts on …

… how the museum has grown since she first joined the staff.

I love that we have changed and grown so much while still embracing and respecting our history. I remember Adm. John Kirkpatrick telling me stories about the difference this place makes for our community, how important it is to have a place where children can explore. When I started, the museum was everything I remembered as a child. It was as magical and wonder-filled as ever, and it managed to stay that way with few changes. There was a very pivotal moment when the administration decided to consciously invest back in the museum … a movement to update exhibits, infrastructure and institutional capacity. This began a time of exponential growth; we created new experiences, updated technology and explored new programs and partnerships. The museum you see now embraces all of the magic of the past and inspires learners of the future. You will find experiences here unlike any other. We are now a nationally recognized museum that is a leader in open-ended exploration and interactive exhibit offerings.

… her favorite area of the museum.

I truly cannot choose just one. As a physicist, I have always been partial to our experiences that explore sound and light. We still have an exhibit that was here when I was a child: a tree with lights that reacts to sound. It will always have a special place in my heart. Now that CurioCity – a 20,000-square-foot fully immersive exhibit that encourages learning through play – is open, I have to say I really, really love the interactivity and immersion it offers. But there is one area in the museum that calls deeply to that 9-year-old explorer who attended camps here as a young girl: The Tinkering Garage. It’s a place for all young inventors with its monthly activities varying from taking apart electronics, producing stop motion animations or looking at math concepts through art and weaving. The idea of real tools, real risks and real science to make discoveries on your own terms is extremely appealing. This is where you will find me when I need to get away and create.

… the opportunities for the museum’s future.

Right now we live in an exciting time of technology, creativity and innovation. I am eager to see how we can integrate new ideas to create even more relevant and immersive experiences that excite people about learning. We are also seeing a new generation of civically minded citizens eager to get involved in the community. It will be interesting to see how we can engage these young thinkers in new programs and planning.

… the value of museums.

Don’t underestimate the value of museums, art and culture in our society. It is through these resources we develop communities of informed citizens, creative thinkers and logical decision makers. We support, grow and enrich our city. Science Museum Oklahoma is a valuable resource and a great foundation for fun family engagement. If you haven’t visited lately, you should soon because there is so much new to do and see. You don’t want to miss a moment of it.

… future plans for Science Museum Oklahoma.

We are on a strong trajectory right now, with a plan to bring in even more permanent experiences that reveal the wonder and relevance of science. You will always find something new and different here. This museum is a huge resource for the community and I hope to see increased community engagement and partnerships. We are also starting to play on a national field with other institutions. For example, we are now part of the “Nation of Makers” movement which works to empower students and adults to create, innovate, tinker and make their ideas and solutions come to life.

… visiting the museum as a child.

Science Museum Oklahoma, or Omniplex as it was known, was a huge part of my childhood. I attended summer classes, and it was like I had immediately found my home. I remember seeing inside the exhibits to see how they worked and it was a magical new world. I was always fascinated with taking things apart, trying to rebuild toys and just generally driving my parents nuts. This was the place where people got to do it for a living. This is where my love of science really bloomed. Without the comfort of science that I learned at the museum I feel certain I would not have pursued the study of physics and chemistry. If anyone wonders if museums really do impact children, I am living proof. I wrote a paper in the fifth grade about the museum, how much I loved it and how great it would be to work there – karma.

… the growth in OKC’s Adventure District, where the museum is located.

It’s an exciting time in the Adventure District! The renaissance taking place at the museum is reflective of similar positive changes among many of our partners. We’re all united in a common goal to create a district that serves as a destination point for tourists and residents alike. A lot of the changes you’re seeing at the museum and within the district are the result of years of collaboration among our partners. We have the opportunity, and responsibility, to positively impact a visitor’s perception of the district as a whole. That’s one of the reasons we take such care in the development of our parking lot, landscaping and signage. It’s also a reason we work to ensure a visitor’s experience is outstanding from beginning to end. Keep your eyes on the Adventure District – great things are on the horizon.

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