Rochester Museum & Science Center received two 2019 Awards of Merit from the Museum Association of New York at its annual conference.
MANY Awards of Merit recognize outstanding and innovative programs, staff and volunteers that enriched state museums with new and remarkable projects during the previous year. The awards were judged in seven categories, and presented to 12 individuals, museums, exhibitions and programs from across the state.
Kate Bennett, past president of RMSC, received the Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award, which recognizes a board member or staff leader who saw their organization through a critical challenge or significant opportunity in a creative, effective manner. Members of the selection committee noted that Bennett’s work at RMSC was exemplary for the field and that she “led the organization to new levels of community engagement, relevance and sustainability.”
Bennett led RMSC from 1996­ to 2018. Under her leadership, RMSC transformed to enhance visitor engagement and increase its science, technology, engineering and math focus; created more than 200 hands-on exhibit experiences in partnership with the community; and engaged in numerous collaborations on topics related to the community, including the “RACE: Are We So Different” and “Take It Down: Organizing Against Racism” projects.
During her tenure, RMSC grew its programming to include hybrid exhibitions combining collections, programs, content and human interaction; frequent and varied live animal demonstrations; a music-driven Tesla coil experience including a Faraday cage; real-time exhibitions such as “Science on a Sphere”; an array of educational camps; highly educational planetarium programs; an environmentally focused Nature Center; and upgrades to collections spaces that will ensure better access to the region’s heritage for generations to come.
RMSC also received an Engaging Communities Award for the “Take It Down” traveling exhibit, presented in partnership with the Take It Down Planning Committee and the city of Rochester. The award recognizes organizations that use creative methods to engage its community and build new audiences. Projects may include collections interpretation, exhibitions, lecture series, educational or public programs, focus groups, strategic planning, or other community engagement efforts.
“Using the removal of a racist panel from the historic Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, the ‘Take It Down: Organizing Against Racism’ exhibit and related programs benefited the public by galvanizing conversations around the racial inequity that has divided Rochester,” MANY said in its announcement. “Community receptions, panels and rich discussion-based programs at each ‘Take It Down’ exhibit venue demonstrated the exhibition’s ability to serve as a springboard to address issues of social justice in the Rochester community.”