Interview by Jan Osborn. Photos courtesy of the Perot Museum.
The Perot Museum is a place where families can learn together and individuals can take a break from their daily routines to ponder the vast mysteries of science. Visitors can wander, either to get lost or to find their way, as they discover something new and fascinating.
The Museum reminds us that the universe is grander than ourselves, older than we can fathom, and that the world actually revolves around the sun, and not us. It inspires our community through exhibits, marvels, and presentations. It exhilarates and entertains visitors of all ages… because after all, it’s never too late to learn.
Dallas Doing Good recently had the opportunity to visit with Linda Silver, Ed.D., Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer, to find out more about The Perot Museum and ten years of inspiring minds.
You joined the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in July 2017 as the Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer. Tell us about your prior career positions that brought you to the museum.
I have spent the past 30 years working in science and natural history museums all across the globe. I began my career working for the Natural History Museum of LA County where I spent 13 years – first as a museum educator and then ultimately ending my tenure there as the Vice President of Education and Guest Relations where I oversaw the five museums that made up NHM. I was then recruited to my first museum CEO position at age 34, when I was tapped to lead the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. After six years of leading that organization, plus an additional two years working for them remotely, I moved to Abu Dhabi and helped their government develop an informal science education infrastructure for the Emirate. In the almost seven years I spent there, I worked to develop the plans for the Abu Dhabi Science Centre, managed all content for the Abu Dhabi Science Festival, and launched the science outreach program in the school system. I returned to the United States in 2017 to lead the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Along the way I earned an MBA from Pepperdine University with a focus on nonprofit management, and then an EdD from the USC Rossier School of Education, where I focused my studies and research in informal science education, the science learning that happens outside of formal schooling, and where most people learn the majority of science over their lifetimes.
It’s hard to believe the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year. How are you marking this significant milestone?
What an incredible decade it has been. We are commemorating this decade with 10 community initiatives, beginning with our revamped Speed Wall in the Lamar Hunt Family Sports Hall and ending with a community-wide celebration of our actual opening in December. We are very fortunate to have Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki as chairs for this 10th Anniversary celebration. The Museum is one of their family’s favorite places to visit and they believe all families should have access to all that the Museum offers.
You kicked off the year-long celebration with a special event at the Museum on March 2nd. Tell us about the revamped Speed Wall in the Lamar Hunt Family Sports Hall.
The Speed Wall in the Lamar Family Hunt Sports Hall has long been one of the Museum’s most popular and talked-about exhibits. Children – and even adults – are able to race against creatures like the tyrannosaurus and cheetah, as well as prominent athletes. Sports are a wonderful gateway to spark an interest in science, so the hall serves as a wonderful tool to bring science to life for Museum guests. On March 2, we unveiled seven new athletes to race on the Speed Wall.
Who are the new athletes that are featured in the Speed Wall exhibit and why were they selected?
Several champion athletes from North Texas are featured, including Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Dallas Wings Forward Moriah Jefferson, FC Dallas Midfielder Paxton Pomykal, Olympic Sprinter Ronnie Baker Jr., Paralympian Élodie Tessier, Cross Country Champion Runner Natalie Cook and FC Dallas mascot Tex Hooper. The new Speed Wall is one example of the enhancements the Museum is making to ensure its exhibits are welcoming and engaging to all audiences. Museums are for everyone and the Speed Wall is designed to impact and inspire children of all backgrounds and abilities.
As the Museum enters its second decade, what are you doing to build on your mission to inspire minds through nature and science?
During the past ten years, an incredible foundation has been laid at the Perot Museum. As we mark this meaningful 10-year milestone, we’re building on our legacy to expand and deepen that impact during the next decade, guided by a bold vision for the future. Science is ever-changing, so if our goal is to inspire minds and curiosity, we must be, too. Two of our main goals are to enhance the interactive guest experience, ensuring the Museum is welcoming and engaging to all audiences and to strengthen community connections by expanding educational services and outreach throughout North Texas.
How has the Museum impacted the millions of children that have visited over the last 10 years?
This year we will welcome our 10 millionth visitor. So many children have come to the Museum with their families, friends and schools. Countless minds have been impacted, and I cannot even begin to imagine the “ah-ha” moments inspired within these four walls. Through our outreach programs, like our TECH Trucks, the Museum has also inspired thousands more with experiments and activities, bringing science to life.
What is your vision for the next 10 years?
As this new chapter in our story unfolds, we are going to focus on what we are informally calling “Perot 2.0.” It is a sort of new and improved version that’s still firmly rooted in our mission to inspire minds through nature and science but will make the Perot Museum experience even more welcoming for all, more inspiring — and ultimately more impactful. To accomplish this we’re actively seeking out new community connections while deepening existing ones, expanding our educational services and outreach to teachers, students and families, building out a larger digital footprint and enhancing our interactive guest experience. Ten years from now I want the city of Dallas to be stronger and more equipped to meet the challenges of an ever-changing STEM-centric world. The Perot Museum has a vital role in making that happen and we intend to do exactly that.
Counting down to a spectacular anniversary event in 2022, The Perot Museum is launching a series of special community engagement initiatives centered around the Perot Museum’s impact. For more information, go to www.perotmuseum.org.