Update from our (new) CEO | May 2024

Dear Friend of the Museum,

It’s a great pleasure to write to you from my new post as CEO of Discovery Museum.

While physically this role only took me across the hall—to an office with a fantastic view of Bessie, our dinosaur mascot, and all the young friends who visit her each day—the change in my perspective has been immeasurable. I find myself both emboldened by the privilege of being chosen to lead this wonderful mission, and humbled by the tremendous possibilities that are before us.

About 11 years ago, when I first joined Discovery Museum as Chief Development Officer, I experienced this same incongruity—but not about my job. Rather, it was about my other role, as a parent. Parenting felt both empowering and daunting, high risk and high reward. Over time I found that being immersed professionally in the Discovery Museum ethos of joyful learning through play taught me so much and made me a more confident parent.    

Discovery Museum is rightly considered a special place for children, but we are also a special and impactful place for those entrusted to care for children. Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, childcare providers…our calling is also to serve you, to support you as you go about the hard and complicated work of raising children.

And here’s why that’s more important now than ever.

We learned from our Discovery Museum Speaker Series presenters, Drs. Gene Beresin and Khadijah Booth Watkins of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, that parents and caregivers these days feel unsettled and uncertain about how to support their children. They told us that what kids want to know is: “Am I safe? Are you, the people taking care of me, safe? How will the uncertain events in the world affect my daily life?” (You can watch the recording of this event, “Parenting in a Time of Insecurity,” on our YouTube channel.) These are heavy questions to answer in a time when the news is filled with stories of poor behavior, misplaced assumptions, and anger. 

So, what does Discovery Museum do to support the adults trying to navigate these times? I believe the most important service we provide is connection. Let me explain.

In a complicated and confusing world, our museum invites grown-ups and children to connect with each other across an exhibit, at a picnic table, in the Treehouse, or during a shared program. Our simple and deeply human approach reinforces the positive benefits of making time for carefree exploration of shared interests. We bring together visitors from communities across Massachusetts and beyond to collaborate in answering questions and solving problems, ranging from “What should we cook today in Bessie’s Diner?” to “How many kids can I lift with the da Vinci Lever?””

And it’s no accident that the tagline for our adult-targeted Discovery Museum Speaker Series is “Conversation. Understanding. Hope,” a reflection of our intentional efforts to forge community connections. As one attendee wrote to me recently, "In a world full of book bans and avoidance of topics and conversations that impact communities, families, AND children, it is truly a joy (and a relief!) to see organizations like Discovery Museum being intentional in inviting people into conversation on the tough things and being a resource for information and life-long learning."

Connection makes the unfamiliar familiar. It helps us recognize each other’s humanity. It makes it easier for adults to answer those hard questions honestly and confidently: Am I safe? Yes, people are good, we are all looking out for you. Are the people taking care of me safe? Yes. There are a lot of challenges in the world but we can work together to figure them out. How will the uncertain events of the world affect my daily life? I don’t know, but we will take it day by day and your good ideas will help make things better.

In my new role, I’ve been asked often, “What’s next?” This month we are embarking on a strategic planning process to guide us toward a bright future, one we know will be rooted in joy and connection. We will be inviting in voices from across our broader community so that our direction can be both visionary and responsive. We will be asking: How can we better serve? What new roles can a museum play? How can we make even better use of our expertise and experience? We are excited to dig in, with your help, and uncover the possibilities.

picture of a report cover with a photo of 3 children using a tabletop exhibit in a museum

Finally, it is my great privilege to shine a light on the tremendous, generous, empathetic acts of our volunteers, donors, and advocates—all of whom are recognized in our 2023 Report of Generosity. With their affinity for our museum we are serving more visitors, reaching more children with STEM experiences in their classrooms, and making more connections in our communities than ever before. Thank you!

Now, I invite you to connect with me! If you have ideas for our future, please let us know at strategicplan [at] discoveryacton.org (strategicplan[at]discoveryacton[dot]org). If you'd like to reach out for any other reason, I welcome your email to mbeam [at] discoveryacton.org (mbeam[at]discoveryacton[dot]org).


Marie R. B. Beam