Dr. Melanie Johnson of Space Center Houston Wins 2014 Nancy Hanks Memorial Award for Professional Excellence
Museum Educator Credited With Transforming Museum’s Mission, Vision
Dr. Melanie Johnson, director of education at Space Center Houston, is the recipient of the 2014 Nancy Hanks Memorial Award for Professional Excellence, honoring a museum professional with less than 10 years experience in the field.
The award will be presented during the general session at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Seattle, May 19.
Dr. Johnson has been credited with transforming Space Center Houston, turning what had been considered an attraction into a vibrant, effective museum for the history of space flight. All this, with less than five years both on the job and in the museum field. Dr. Johnson came to Space Flight Houston after a successful career in higher education administration. Her influence extends well beyond the museum’s walls, as her educational initiatives have made a profound impact on Houston schools, while also influencing the approach of NASA’s other eight visitor centers across the nation on effectively telling the inspiring history of space flight.
“Dr. Melanie Johnson is living proof of what museums, committed as they are to our common educational mission, can accomplish,” said AAM president Ford W. Bell. “The positive impact museums everywhere have, every day, is due to the people who work in them. I have been privileged to meet innumerable dedicated museum professionals, and Dr. Johnson sets the standard for our entire field.”
Dr. Johnson’s mantra: “The art of happiness is serving all people”—has inspired her colleagues at Space Center Houston. “She has been able to [spark] an unprecedented cultural shift in the organization, [one] that would render it a transformative leader in space education delivery,” wrote Paula McCann Harris in her nomination of Dr. Johnson. Ms. Harris is a member of the museum’s board and chair of its education committee.
First given in 1985, the Nancy Hank Memorial Award recognizes a specific achievement that has benefitted either the honoree’s home institution or the museum field in general. The cited achievement may be in any area of a museum’s operation: administration, exhibitions, education, public relations, registration, collections management or development. Alternatively, the accomplishment may benefit the museum field generally (for instance, a development plan, membership plan, exhibition design, or collection policy that can serve as a model for other museums).
The award commemorates the lifelong support by the late Nancy Hanks of cultural endeavors, and in particular her encouragement of young professionals in the cultural arena. Nancy Hanks served eight exceptional years as Chair of the National Endowment of the Arts, among other accomplishments.
About the American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 21,000 individual, 3,500 institutional and 300 corporate members, the Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.