Reimagination Campaign – Museum of Discovery


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As Nan Selz reflects on her history with the Museum of Discovery, it’s with gratitude for a great adventure in the world of STEM: science, technology engineering and math. She realizes that the museum is a powerful, educational resource for children + students throughout the state with multiple opportunities for families to explore and engage. Nan retired in 2012 but remains engaged and enthusiastic about the future of the museum as well as the most recent introduction of the Reimagination Campaign.

Nan believes it is a personal responsibility “to act in such a way as to make the world a better place” and enjoys this pursuit throughout our community.  She remembers volunteering for a variety of organizations; this experience in fundraising earned her a professional career with the St. Vincent Foundation and later the museum. Nan reflects, “At some point, one of those nonprofits offered to pay me for taking on the management of a project. It happened again and, before I knew it, I was working full time.”    

Nan joined the Museum of Discovery in 2004. “The museum had received a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation which required a $1.9 million match. Although I knew almost nothing about managing a museum, they were mainly looking for someone who had fundraising experience.” With the success of this initiative, she was instrumental in the expansion as well as the design and installation of new exhibits. Impressed by the volume of visitors and wealth of knowledge the museum offers, Nan admits to a love affair that endures. “From the minute I started at the museum, I noticed that the impact it has on children is incredible.” Under her leadership as executive director, the museum became renowned as the state’s premier math, science and technology center. She continues to invest her time, energy and optimism in every and any way possible.

Established by Bernie Babcock in 1927 as the Museum of Natural History & Antiquities, the Museum of Discovery is Little Rock’s oldest museum. Many of the original artifacts came from Bernie’s personal collection. Always mindful of constituents and the changing landscape of public education, Chief Executive Officer Kelley Bass notes the importance of keeping amenities timely, meaningful and accessible to all children. “Early learners and their families are the largest audience at the museum. That’s why we are focusing on that younger age group with Fish Camp and focusing on the interests of kids up to about age 9 with Curiosity Spot.”

Announced earlier this year, the Reimagination Campaign – with a $10.7 million fundraising goal – will revitalize the early childhood gallery and create a new gallery: Fish Camp & Curiosity Spot. This is the final phase of a campaign that already debuted a two-story, three-tower climber and renovated two galleries that were destroyed by the 2021 weather-related flood. These plans align with the vision and values of the Museum of Discovery: to ignite passion for science, technology and math in a dynamic, interactive arena. Kelley elaborates, “Providing engaging experiences for our youngest guests and their families is at the heart of the Museum of Discovery’s mission. Our informal environment for exploring and learning is the perfect complement to the more formal education settings.” Nan adds, “It gets children interested in pursuing those fields professionally. It makes these opportunities available to under-represented groups by sponsoring programs that focus on girls, low-income families and schools with students who are living below federal poverty guidelines.” 

During this most ambitious campaign, Kelley recognizes that community and connections are critical components; Nan is a shining example of the power of philanthropy and preservation to keep legacy alongside the most modern technology. “Nan was the driving force behind the last major campaign. The fact she is still a successful fundraiser who adores our museum is no surprise at all.” As a grandmother, Nan has discovered new ways to enjoy the museum; this ardent advocate believes the future is bright. “Everyone can contribute to this campaign because everyone benefits in some way from having a vibrant science and technology center in our community.”



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