Discovery Museum's Marie Beam Receives Excellence Award

MetroWest Museum Professionals Win Coveted Excellence Awards

(Arlington, MA) – The New England Museum Association (NEMA) announces three Metrowest area professionals and NEMA members have won awards in NEMA’s eighth annual Excellence Awards competition: Marie Beam, Maryann Gubala, and Allison Shilling.

Marie Beam, Discovery Museum’s Chief Development Officer since 2013, stepped up to the challenge of finding innovative ways to fill budgetary gaps during the COVID-19 pandemic, adeptly supporting the organization during one of the toughest times in its 40-year-history. Always putting families’ needs first, Marie pitched—and then found funding for—a bold idea: that the Museum offer free admission to everyone for one month upon re-opening, despite the pandemic’s steep toll on the Museum’s revenue. In total, the August 2020 “Free to Play'' month provided no-charge fun to more than 4,500 people from 200 communities across the region. To make up for lost revenue, the Museum increased its 2020 annual fund goal by 20%, a target she exceeded. The Museum was thus able to re-open earlier than many, without layoffs, and remain open for the duration. Under her guidance, the six-figure “Bridge to the Future” campaign was fully funded by May 2021, allowing the Museum to continue advancing its goals for environmental sustainability and DEAI as it slowly began to rebound from the financial impact of being closed for 4.5 months. Through it all, Marie led her team of three with compassion and understanding.

Maryann Gubala is the Social and Content Producer at Old Sturbridge Village. She has played key roles in developing and growing the Village’s digital content assets and Virtual Village, creating and analyzing surveys, and internal video production. Maryann’s commitment to excellence in the museum field is demonstrated through her deep knowledge of living history and her daily work in the communications department, representing Old Sturbridge Village and its values as she embodies the voice of the museum. For over six years (including her first year at the Village as an intern), Maryann Gubala has immersed herself in all things Old Sturbridge Village, living history, and the museum sector in general. She literally wears 10 hats and somehow manages to go above and beyond in all of her roles. During COVID, Maryann was the first to raise her hand to find new ways to connect with our audiences while we were in shut-down mode. Partnering with one of our interpreters, Maryann started creating video shorts to push out on social media. Her efforts quickly evolved into "Virtual Village" which has become our platform for delivering all online content to our stakeholders and now includes video shorts and longer formats, webinars, 3D tours, DIY demonstrations, virtual education camps, and much more.

Allison Shilling is the Senior Program Officer at the Concord Museum. Since January 2019, she has been responsible for overseeing all adult and family programming. In her first year on staff in 2019, she single handedly produced 24 eblasts (2 per month) that were viewed 103,312 times. They included videos of the Museum’s curator, associate curator, and educators; mini-gallery talks; artifact highlights, and family/educational activities. Allison also led the technical effort to convert the Concord Museum Forums to a virtual format. During the pandemic, the Museum has hosted 44 forums (averaging three a month) that attracted over 15,000 viewers (and two re-aired on C-SPAN to countless others). The virtual format has allowed us to have conversations with national leaders and historians including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Annette Gordon Reed, Samantha Power, Jill Lepore, Danielle Allen, Laura Walls, and dozens more. Allison also produced our new April 19, 1775 exhibit opening with over 3,000 virtual attendees.

“Given the upheaval in our field over the past eighteen months, these awards are even more important this year to recognize the innovation, dedication, and vision of the recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their work strengthens our community of museum professionals and improves visitor experience across New England,” said NEMA Executive Director Dan Yaeger when announcing the honor. “We are proud to acknowledge, celebrate, and recognize these outstanding individuals as leaders in service to the museum profession.”

The NEMA Excellence Award competition recognizes individual members for excellence in museum practice, whether they’re behind-the-scenes or on the front lines, the unsung heroes or the superstars. Nominated by their peers, nominees represent a range of worthy practices, acts of outreach, kind deeds, and sustained commitments to going above and beyond, regardless of job description. Winners will be recognized at the 2021 Annual NEMA Conference, conducted virtually November 15-19. 

NEMA inspires and connects people engaged with the museum field, provides tools for innovative leadership and development, and empowers museums to sustain themselves as essential to their communities. For over 100 years, the New England Museum Association has been the only organization in New England serving museums of all sizes and the people who work for and with them. To learn more about NEMA, go to




Contact: Dan Yaeger, Executive Director