When I was growing up, my family was by no means what you might call "well off," so my parents were very careful about the money they spent on family vacations.
Instead of amusement parks most of our vacations were spent going to free or low cost museums, art centers, state or national parks, and other cultural institutions. By the time I graduated high school, my parents had given me
the wonderful gift of having driven to 20 different states and having visited museums and cultural institutions in every single one. These trips have become the stuff of EPIC family tales and legends.
But more importantly they introduced me to the wonders beyond the little community where I grew up, and let me experienced the world in a way that could never be truly captured textbooks and classrooms.
When I was little I thought Pettit Jean Mountain State Park in AR was the top of the world. When I was seven my sister and I rode with Billy the Kid's gang in the desert town of Lincoln, New Mexico.
The first play I ever remember seeing was Dracula at the Arkansas Arts Center. I was in the fifth grade, and it scared the bejeezus out of me, but I loved it.
I remember seeing dinosaurs come back to life in Utah. A Sequoia proved to me just how big some trees can grow. And I met Ramses the Great in Dallas when I was eleven starting my love of Middle Eastern Cultures.
I’ve charged the hill at Vicksburg, with my entire eight-grade class. I've walked through Carlsbad Caverns, the Painted Desert, and the Valley of Fire. And when it was too hot to go to the desert. . .
I got to feed dolphins in Biloxi and I have floated the Buffalo River more times than I can count. All of this was before I ever graduated high school, but my cultural explorations didn't stop there.
I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, witnessed the changing of the guard, and snuck a picture with the Rosetta stone while racing through the British Museum at closing time. I've seen the breathtaking grandeur
of Crater Lake. Hiked the serene trails of the Smokey mountains, and communed with the spirits in New Orleans. I've met King Tut in Chicago, the Grinch in Little Rock, and Vulcan in Birmingham.
I've curtsied in Colonial Williamsburg, and learned sheep-shearing at Shiloh, I road a camel in Knoxville and I even became a spy while I was at the International Spy Museum.
That is the power of great museums: They transport us to places we might not be able to go. They take us to times we've never lived in. They show us what was and, in some cases,
what may yet be. They spark imagination, curiosity, realization, and hope. They make us better people. And, in my case,
they introduced a world of possibilities to a wide-eyed little girl, and it was a world she never wanted to leave. That is why I became a museum professional. At every museum that I've worked at,
I've enjoyed witnessing the power of museums. I see the wonder on people's faces as they explore. At my current job I get to people kids meet George Washington, Rosie the Riveter, Dolly Parton, Bill Clinton, many more.
In the spring they explore the natural world through our trails. They learn which plants the Native Americans used and the see groundhog and deer sometimes for the first time in their lives.
But for me, I'll be imagining the greater impact, the deeper impact. Which can only come from the power of a museum.
Which of these visitors will decide to be the next world-renowned scientist, the next entertainment sensation, or the next icon of patriotism? And maybe a little selfishly I wonder which one will become
the next humble museum professional......all because museums have the power to show us a world of possibilities and make us better people. I believe in the power of museums.