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AAM Recognizes 13 Individuals and 10 Institutions for Exemplary Work in the Museum Field


For immediate release

ARLINGTON, VA – The Board of Directors of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, today announced the individuals, programs, and institutions recognized for their leadership and excellence within the museum field. These honorees showcase the vital role that every museum professional plays in building thriving museums, strong communities, and a better world.

The AAM Awards and Recognition Program is designed to be accessible, inclusive, and relevant to the broad scope of the museum field, celebrating the vital work that propels our field forward. Awards are given to individuals, programs, and institutions for their exceptional impact within the field. For 2024, AAM Board Chair Jorge Zamanillo also announced a Chair’s Leadership Award, reserved for rare occasions to honor outstanding leadership and extraordinary accomplishments.

Awards will be presented at the 2024 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Baltimore, MD.

Chair’s Leadership Award

Carlos Tortolero and National Museum of Mexican Art

Photo of Carlos Tortolero in front of artwork.The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) in Chicago, the first Latino museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is one of “the most prominent first-voice institutions for Mexican art and culture” in the US and home to one of the country’s largest Mexican art collections: more than 18,000 pieces from ancient Mexico to the present. Carlos Tortolero, Founder of the NMMA, recently announced his retirement following a decades-long career as President of the museum, where he was also a champion of Latino culture and heritage nationwide. Carlos leaves a lasting impact in the Chicago area and across the country, for his dedication to making the arts accessible for all.

Carlos founded the NMMA in 1982, and then directed its construction until its doors opened in 1987. Under Carlos, the museum’s four galleries and dedicated performing arts space flourished. His leadership saw the growth of the museum’s permanent collection to 20,000 pieces, the establishment and growth of the museum’s endowment, and creation of award-winning youth arts programming. A lifelong champion of the arts and humanities, he was an active and engaged member of the arts and humanities community writ large. He has served on the boards of numerous educational, cultural organization, and local arts and humanities organizations, including the American Alliance of Museums, and he is the recipient of several honorary degrees. He was also awarded the City of Chicago’s highest honor in the arts, The Fifth Star Award, and has received the Chicago History Museum’s History Makers Award, among other accolades. In addition to authoring several books and articles, Carlos is a Co-Founder of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance; an original member and a catalyst of Enrich Chicago, which strives to eliminate racism in the arts; and creator of the national organization, Mexican Cultural Arts Alliance.

In 2020, the Ford Foundation named the NMMA as one of America’s Cultural Treasures and in 2021, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott awarded the NMMA $8 million for their exemplary work. Now, having left his indelible mark on the museum and on our field, Carlos looks forward to new leaders continuing to make Latino arts and culture accessible to all—while he leans into his role as grandfather.

Distinguished Service Award

Doug Jones, Director, Florida Museum of Natural History

Headshot of Doug Jones in museumDoug Jones is an exemplary leader of natural history museums and a renowned expert in paleontology who has created a thriving, first-of-its kind natural history museum. He is the longest-serving director of any major natural history museum in the United States.

Doug earned a PhD in Geological and Geophysical Sciences from Princeton and quickly became known for his scientific research in evolutionary paleontology. After joining the museum as faculty curator of Invertebrate Paleontology, he led the growth of its collections to become one of the largest scientific research collections of its kind in the US. Since 1997, with Doug’s leadership, the Florida Museum of Natural History has doubled the size of its staff. Currently with more than 30 full-time research curators plus collections management staff, caring for and curating approximately 50 million specimens, the museum has one of the largest scientific staffs of its kind in the country. Each year, a diverse group of over 100 undergraduate and graduate students work in the collections, many of whom are training to be the next generation of museum professionals. Doug is a forceful advocate for staff development, encouraging them to broaden their impact on society. This approach has grown the institution from a regional museum to have a statewide footprint and national recognition, including mentoring and STEM education programs in public K-12 schools (particularly Title I) in more than 40 Florida counties. During his tenure as Director, museum visitation has more than doubled to a quarter million annually.

In addition to authoring many widely cited publications, considered classics in the field of paleontology, Doug has held numerous leadership positions in paleontology, such as co-editor of the international flagship journal, Paleobiology. He has been elected a Fellow of the Paleontological Society and the Geological Society of America. He’s served on the boards of the American Alliance of Museums (including as Board Chair), the Association of Science and Technology Centers, and the Natural Science Collection Alliance—attesting to his valued service to the broad museum community. He has also served as president of the Florida Association of Museums and the Association of Science Museum Directors.

Nancy Hanks Award for Rising Stars

Amber Angeloni, Manager of Visitor Experience, The Cummer Museum

Headshot of Amber AngeloniAfter growing up in Northwest Arkansas, pursuing a degree in Art Education, and four years in the classroom, Amber Angeloni relocated and found her niche in museum visitor services. She has worked at Mystic Aquarium, Chrysler Museum of Art, and since 2021 in a visitor experience role at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, where she is now Visitor Experience Manager. In January 2023, Amber launched the museum’s successful Gallery Host Program, which measurably improved visitor satisfaction by transforming traditional gallery security positions into Gallery Hosts, trained to educate and converse with visitors about art, in addition to policies. In addition to daily engagement with visitors, Amber and the Gallery Host team developed successful public tours designed around a range of topics to boost engagement from more diverse groups in the community and foster a greater sense of belonging for visitors. Amber believes strongly in the transformative power of museums and gardens to meet visitors where they are, the impact that staff can have on the visitor experience, and the ways that staff can help form connections between visitors (and their daily experiences) to collections.

Roberto C. Chavez, Educator for Children and Family Learning, American Museum of Natural History

Photo of Roberto C. Chavez at work - he holds a specimen that looks like a snake, in rubber gloves. Roberto C. Chavez (he/him) is a museum educator for Children and Family Learning at the American Museum of Natural History and the creator of “Gifts My Students Gave Me.” Previously, he worked at the Intrepid Museum, King Manor Museum, the New-York Historical Society, the New York Transit Museum, and the Tenement Museum. Roberto volunteers for the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER), Queer GLAM Workers, and AMNH PRIDE. At the NYCMER Annual Conference, Roberto has previously presented on teaching LGBTQ history, teaching neurodivergent students as a neurodivergent educator, living with sudden and chronic illnesses, and designing accessibility resources.

Andre LuJan, Director, Texas Through Time

Headshot of Andre LuJanAndre LuJan is a professional paleontologist from Dallas, Texas, and CEO of his company PaleoTex, founded in 2016. In 2018 Andre & his wife Carrie founded Texas Through Time, a nonprofit museum where the public and researchers can access hundreds of fossils from the region. Andre has extensive experience preparing, mounting, casting and providing professional paleontology services, and is a recognized paleontology expert across many media outlets and written publications. With a lifelong passion and pursuit of paleontology, Andre has worked with experts and institutions around the world, is called on for his expertise— especially on Cretaceous and Permian animals of Texas, and has even discovered a new genus of dinosaurs and several new species.

Tamara Maxey, Curator/Grant Writer, Gold Nugget Museum

Headshot of Tamara MaxeyTamara Maxey received her M.A. in anthropology with a museum studies focus from the California State University, Chico in 2019. Her first position was as the Operations and Facilities Manager at the Chico Children’s Museum, and within two years she was promoted to Executive Director. After the museum’s COVID-related closure, Tamara assumed a new role as Curator of the Gold Nugget Museum (GNM) in Paradise, California, which had lost its original site to the Camp Fire of 2018. When Tamara joined the GNM, the entire organization was in a state of rebuilding, being re-imagined from the ground up. As Curator, she has guided modernization process for the collections, and for exhibits policies and procedures, contributing to her professional growth as she navigates a rewarding, but challenging process, while engaging a variety of stakeholders.

Chris Morehead, Director of Experience and Operations, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

Headshot of Chris MoreheadChris Morehead has held numerous positions at Newsfields over his nine-year tenure overseeing and leading the exponential growth of the Guest Experience, Volunteerism, and Community Engagement Departments. Chris worked with volunteers and staff to redesign the volunteer program, including volunteerism in all aspects of campus operations. His community engagement work has been integral to the museum’s partnerships with organizations dedicated to supporting underserved and under-resourced communities throughout Central Indiana. With engagement of fifty community partners, the communities themselves, and the Newfields Community Advisory Committee, these strategic partnerships helped form seventeen community access programs that spurred record annual access program visitation, with participation of over 100,000 members of the community. Chris is the President for the American Association for Museum Volunteers, past President for the Central Indiana Association of Volunteer Administrators, Circular Indiana Board Member, and a past President of Indy Pride, Inc. Chris is also a graduate of the Stanley K. Lacey Executive Leadership Series and current participant in the Diversity in Leadership Program, focused on developing the next generation of diverse executive leaders.

Miguel Ordeñana, Senior Manager, Community Science, Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC)

Headshot of Miguel OrdeñanMiguel Ordeñana is an environmental educator and wildlife biologist. He works at the NHMLAC ‘s Community Science office as a Senior Manager, where he promotes and creates community science projects—ranging in topics from environmental justice to biodiversity research—and recruits and trains participants. Miguel conducts urban mammal research in Los Angeles, leading the NHMLAC’s Southern California Squirrel Survey and Backyard Bat Survey, advises on a jaguar project he initiated in southwestern Nicaragua in 2012, and serves as a Board Member for the Friends of Griffith Park and National Wildlife Federation. Miguel is dedicated to making science and access to nature more equitable, with a goal of increasing the representation and retention of underrepresented communities within the environmental and museum field. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Southern California, and a M.S. in Ecology from the University of California Davis.

Joshua Ramirez, Associate Education Specialist, Youth Programs, J. Paul Getty Museum & Founder and Director of Saint Remy Arts and Culture

Headshot of Joshua RamirezJoshua Ramirez is a brown-indigenous social practice artist, museum arts administrator, and cultural practitioner based in Los Angeles County, where he currently works in Youth Development Programs at the J. Paul Getty Center. Using his own mental illness and disability as a platform to pursue systemic change, Joshua began Saint Remy Arts & Culture, a nonprofit organization that merges advocacy and the creative process of art to provide transformative and cultural spaces for individuals with mental illness, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts. By leading through the lens of authenticity and empathy, he uses his unique experience to mentor at-risk youth, advocate for artists with disabilities, and create social impact programming for traditionally underrepresented communities. In his own practice, Joshua explores the complexity of the human condition across themes of abandonment, past trauma, and working-class race relations in the US through photography, sculpture, and painting. He sits on the board of NAMI Pomona Valley and advises national and local organizations, such as Americans for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Museum of Modern Art, Department of Cultural Affairs-Los Angeles, Depression and Bipolar Alliance, California Arts Council & Tri-City Mental Health. He has a B.A. in art from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in art education.

KT Todd, Director of Learning & Research, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Headshot Dr. KT ToddDr. KT Todd is Director of Learning and Research at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, where they lead a portfolio of research, evaluation, and professional development projects dedicated to centering equity and justice at the intersection of research and practice in museums. KT has more than 15 years of experience conducting social science research, nearly 10 years of experience in museums, and is an advocate for culturally responsive research and evaluation practice that adds value for participants and actively disrupts inequities. Their work explores liberatory efforts around race, gender, dis/ability, and LGBTQIA issues—building synergies for coordinated equity work across identities and issues. Their approach recognizes that systemic change requires interrogating both the external work we do with visitors and the internal ways we organize and lead our museums; additionally, it necessitates time for relationship-building and healing alongside actively striving for improvement.

Stephen White, Esq., Chief Strategy Officer, Center for Science and Industry (COSI)

Headshot of Stephen WhiteStephen White is Chief Strategy Officer at COSI, where he oversees optimization of the organization’s entrepreneurial business model; implements a global strategy for public partnerships at the city, state, and federal levels; and leads the execution of COSI’s Strategic Plan and business development. During his seven years in the museum field, Stephen championed the theory of “Servant Learning” as an engagement strategy during the COVID pandemic crisis, and has been an exemplary model in how to serve communities and bridge the education gap and digital divide. A signature initiative of his has been the Learning Lunchbox model of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM), with a program providing informal learning kits to over 350,000 underserved youth globally. The kits—developed in partnership with the White House, NASA, U.S. Department of Energy, and more—were delivered alongside critical human services such as foodbanks. Stephen has over a decade experience in partnerships and policy, including serving as General Counsel in the U.S. Senate, where he worked on critical public policy to address workforce development and education. As a first-generation student, he earned three degrees from The Ohio State University—a B.A. in English and Political Science, J.D., and M.A. in Public Policy and Management—as well as a Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has been an adjunct law professor, served on several state and federal boards, and has had numerous speaking engagements on strategies to address workforce development and education equity.

Recognition for the Advancement of Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion

With the acknowledgment that diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) work is necessarily ongoing and iterative, this recognition highlights important and noteworthy work that is driving impact and making a difference both internally through museum workplace culture, programs, and policies and externally through engagement with museum audiences and communities. Multiple individuals, programs/initiatives, and organizations may be recognized in a given year.

Recognition for Individuals:

Jenni Martin, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

Headshot of Jenni MartinWith almost 30 years in the museum field, Jenni Martin’s deep commitment to equity and inclusion practices is inspired by her many years of work with different ethnic and immigrant communities in the diverse community of San Jose, CA. Grounded in experiential and inquiry-based learning, Jenni provides strategic vision and direction for museum-wide initiatives at Children’s Discovery Museum, including major exhibition projects and programming, museum partnerships and collaborations, organizational change, and museum-research partnerships. She has spearheaded the museum’s Latino, Vietnamese and Autism Community Development Initiatives, including launching Common Ground, a program to facilitate dialogue and exhibit co-creation among families recently emigrated from China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Jenni also co-founded the Cultural Competence Learning Institute, a professional development institute for museum teams focused on equity, inclusion, accessibility, and diversity, which has served over 47 museums and 175 individuals since 2013. Learnings from the many communities, museums, and years will be shared in CCLI’s soon-to-be-launched 10-course online curriculum, Actionable Insights.

Kajette Solomon, Social Equity and Inclusion Specialist, RISD Museum

Headshot of Kajette Solomon

Kajette Solomon’s role as RISD Museum’s first Social Equity and Inclusion Specialist endeavors to shape, implement, and manage the museum’s efforts to build an equitable, diverse, and inclusive institution for all. Kajette is an American Association of Museum Volunteers board member, and a graduate of the inaugural class of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative professional development program. Kajette is co-curator of the exhibition, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet: I Will Not Bend an Inch, as well as co-editor of the accompanying publication. She holds a B.A. in Art History from Arcadia University and M.A. in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism from Purchase College.

Recognition for Programs:

COSI: Color of Science

A diverse group of individuals are listening to an employee who is speaking at a table, with a microscope on the table, demonstrating.Launched at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and continued today at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), The Color of Science is an innovative science interest and literacy program that invites the public to engage with individuals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). By spotlighting the stories of remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds, the program delivers a powerful message: “science is for everyone.” The program is anchored by two free signature events: a “passport” experience for students from diverse, urban schools; and an evening panel discussion for adults and students alike. These events are enhanced by year-round initiatives integrated into COSI’s onsite, online, and community-based experiences that promote the values and critical messages of the program.

Boston Children’s Museum: You, Me, We!

A colorful illustration artwork of human figures and bursts of words, "Be kind," "Love," "Care," "Protect," "Share," "Respect" and more.Boston Children’s Museum opened You, Me, We! (YMW) in February 2023. The exhibit was developed in response to, and in support of, needs expressed by parents and caregivers. YMW offers thoughtful guidance and tools to engage children as they begin to perceive, explore, and question complex topics such as identity, fairness, stereotyping, and discrimination. This exhibit represents a chance to move beyond “tolerance” and “acceptance” to celebration of similarities and differences that make up people in our communities and the world around us. Active and ongoing engagement will ensure sustained relevance and vibrancy in the exhibit and in associated programs. YMW helps children build cultural competence at an early age, laying the groundwork for a greater level of understanding and compassion, which will ripple forward for generations.

Art Bridges Cohort (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Western Museum Partners): Many Wests

A gallery photograph of Many Wests, the project awarded a 2024 AAM Award for DEAI.Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea presents an opportunity to examine previous misconceptions, question racist clichés, and highlight the multiple communities and histories that continue to form this iconic region of the United States. Working in various media, from painting and sculpture to photography and mixed media, the artists featured bring a nuanced and multifaceted history to light. Many Wests highlights many voices, especially those of artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+. These include Rick Bartow (Wiyot), Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath Modoc), V. Maldonado, Rubén Trejo, and Marie Watt (Seneca), among others. These artists reveal that “the West” has always been a place of multiple stories, experiences, and cultures.

The curatorial project, a collaborative work, included artworks from the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM); the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon (Eugene, OR); Boise Art Museum (Boise, ID); Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Salt Lake City, UT); and the Whatcom Museum (Bellingham, WA) and was made possible by the Art Bridges Foundation.

Recognition for Institutions:

First Americans Museum

A child wearing traditional Native American dress smiles in front of the arched architectural entry of the First American Museums in Oklahoma.The mission of the First Americans Museum (FAM) is to serve as a dynamic center promoting awareness and educating the broader public about the unique cultures, diversity, history, contributions, and resilience of the First American Nations in Oklahoma today.

Today, 39 distinct, culturally and linguistically diverse tribal nations reside in Oklahoma. As an institution whose foundational purpose is to celebrate this diversity, FAM takes pride in guiding guests to connect with the history of the land on which it is situated and people. That commitment flows within all dimensions of the institution, from hiring to curatorial programming and community engagement. FAM staff is comprised of individuals who come from many different cultural backgrounds, but most are citizens of Tribal Nations. Such proximity to the needs of First Americans is essential to the museum’s work in centering knowledge and teachings. However, FAM staff recognize that the First Americans story is one that resonates with marginalized people worldwide, and their accessible facilities provide dynamic platforms for cultural engagement and education for staff and visitors. Galleries were designed specifically for knowledge accessibility, catering to all learning abilities and styles. Uniquely, the OKLA HOMMA gallery offers intertwined chronological, visual, and audible learning tracks to help explain the complex history of First Americans in Oklahoma. Going forward, FAM is committed to continue this careful work, to ensure that all have access to learning a history that often goes untold.

About the 2024 AAM Awards Program

Over the past several years, to better highlight and celebrate the museum professional community in all its diversity, AAM has been redesigning an awards program that aligns with the organization’s strategic framework and centers equity and inclusion.

In 2023, updates intended to make AAM awards and recognition programs more accessible, inclusive, and relevant to the museum field were successfully piloted. Those updates included:

  • A streamlined, more accessible nominations process
  • Expanded eligibility for recognition
  • Recognition of multiple honorees in certain categories to better highlight the scope of exemplary work across all types of museums and roles in the museum field

AAM’s revitalized awards program is designed to create more opportunities to celebrate the vital role that every museum professional plays in building thriving museums, strong communities, and a better world.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is the only organization representing the entire museum field, from art and history museums to science centers and zoos. Since 1906, we have been championing museums through advocacy and providing museum professionals with the resources, knowledge, inspiration, and connections they need to move the field forward.



Press Contact:

Natanya Khashan

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