Behind-The-Scenes of Historical Theater Academy with Linus Pulley

The Historical Theater Academy is about to gear up again on Tuesday nights, and we wanted to sit down with a current student of the program to get the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scenes during the program.

Linus Pulley, a junior at Fulton Independent High School and current participant in the Historical Theater Academy, was recently cast as a main character in a music video by an up-and-coming country band, Bexar. We sat down with Pulley and asked him some questions about how Historical Theater Academy impacted his life and how it prepared him for this role in the video.

How did you hear about Historical Theater Academy, and what made you sign up for it?  

I participated in Jenny Virgin’s summer workshops at the Masquerade Theatre for many years. After she retired from the program, she announced the Historical Theater Academy (HTA) at Discovery Park. My mom told me about it and I entered the class to participate in theater again.

What has been the best thing about being involved in Historical Theater Academy?

The best part of HTA is the whole experience. Being able to create an entire show from the ground up, being able to act in that show, and making great friends along the way are some of the highlights. 

Why should students in grade 6 – 12 sign up for Historical Theater Academy? 

Students should sign up for HTA for a one-of-a-kind experience. Being involved in every single aspect of a new show is amazing. 

You recently were the main character in the music video, “Again,” by the band Bexar. How did HTA prepare you for this role? 

Historical Theater Academy taught me many acting skills that I still use today. The way I am able to convey emotion without speaking is a skill I picked up through HTA and other acting. HTA has also taught me to listen to my director. 

What piece of advice would you give your peers who are thinking about participating in Historical Theater Academy?  

I would tell them that it doesn’t matter if they have acting experience or not. HTA is a place for beginners and experts alike. 

Anything else you would like to share about your experience in HTA? 

I would like to say that HTA is the best program I have ever participated in. Building a show, acting in it, and making friends are some of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Watch the music video for “Again” by Bexar and see Linus’s role in the video.

Looking Back: 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage

Looking Back: 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage

“I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.” — Harry T. Burn

Did you know Tennessee played a pivotal role in the passage of the 13th Amendment?

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee General Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment and handed the ballot to millions of American women. The amendment’s jubilant supporters dubbed Tennessee “the perfect 36” because, as the thirty-sixth of the forty-eight states to approve the amendment, it rounded out the three-fourths majority required to amend the Constitution. But it nearly didn’t happen. At least on that day.

Harry Burn, a 24-year-old representative from East Tennessee, had become the youngest member of the state legislature two years earlier. By the summer of 1920, 35 states had ratified the measure, bringing it one vote short of the required 36. In Tennessee, it had sailed through the Senate but stalled in the House of Representatives, prompting thousands of pro- and anti-suffrage activists to descend upon Nashville. If Burn and his Tennessee colleagues voted in its favor, the 19th Amendment would pass the final hurdle on its way to adoption.

That morning, Harry Burn—who until that time had been very much against suffrage— surprised everyone when he voted in favor of ratifying the amendment.

What few knew at the time was that he had in his pocket a note he had received from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn. In it, she had written:

“Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt. I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood but have not noticed anything yet…be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

The next day, Burn publicly announced his personal support for women’s suffrage, and said, “I believe we had a moral and legal right to ratify.” But he also shared his mother’s role in the story of women’s rights in the United States. “I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow,” he explained, “and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.”

Discovery Park of America has announced several ways the museum and heritage park in Union City, Tenn. will be joining in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Included will be a trio of temporary pop-up exhibits, an online panel discussion and a production performed by students from Discovery Park’s Historical Theater Academy.

The exhibits will be on display through Dec. 31, 2020 and are free with museum admission or membership. The exhibits are sponsored by Baptist Memorial Hospital – Union City and Conley & Conley Law Firm.

For an entire gallery of photos and artifacts documenting anti- and pro-suffrage activity in Tennessee around the passage of the 19th Amendment, visit the Tennessee Virtual Archive.

Join the conversation on a free panel discussion on Thurs., Aug. 13, 2020 at 10 a.m. on “Tennessee Women, Society and Suffrage.

Read more about the exhibits in our latest press release and Women’s Suffrage exhibit page.

Q & A with Lauren Jones about the Launch of ‘Rhythm on the Rails’

As we prepare to kick off the 2020 outdoor summer concert series, “Rhythm on the Rails,” on Fri., June 26, we are faced with a very different world than last year’s successful concert series. From employees wearing face masks to adult beverages being served to guests at their seats, Lauren Jones, Discovery Park’s director of special events, and others at the museum and heritage park have been hard at work for weeks to create a safe place so guests can sit outside and listen to live music.

Lauren took a few minutes to answer some questions about putting together such a big event in the unprecedented times we live as everyone adapts their behavior due to the pandemic.

Question: Why did Discovery Park decide to proceed with a live music series?

Having an outdoor summer music series near the Depot is perfect because families can enjoy the wide-open space of the park, catch some fish, eat good food and listen to great talent while maintaining a safe, six-foot distance from other guests. We’ve had many of our members and people who live in the communities around Union City let us know they are eager for us to continue with the series, and after such a successful reopening of Discovery Park earlier this month, we decided we could apply those same health and safety policies and continue with the popular event.

Question: What sort of things are being done differently this year?

All Discovery Park teammates will be wearing masks, and we’re not having bars like we have had in the past. We’ll have enough of our folks working that can take drink orders from guests who will be able to spread out if they choose. We’ll also have a lot of hand sanitizer available for everyone. Our teammates also have their temperature taken before the shift begins and, of course, no one who has been exposed to anyone with Covid-19 is allowed to work.

Question: How have you known what policies make sense for Discovery Park?

We’ve been closely following recommendations from Gov. Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group, led by the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell. By taking the Tennessee Pledge, as they call it, we’re part of a bigger group of companies and organizations who are working with the medical community and state government to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy.

All of us here have found the Tennessee Pledge to be a careful, measured approach to get Discovery Park open once again while creating a safe environment for our teammates and guests.

Question: Who are some of the bands and performers booked for the series?

We’re kicking things off big with a performance by the Grammy award-winning blues band, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band. Other bands will be performing throughout the music series, including Tyler Goodson; Coby Watts and the AC43 Band; Kimberlie Helton Band; Johnny Mac and the Heart Attacks; Seeing Red; Clark Beckham; Brent Hinson and Matt Crosson; Steve Short and Keith Brown; Olivia Faye; Katie Thorpe Tohn and Kicking Keys with Roger and Barry; and Blair and Madison.

Question: What kind of food will be available?

The first night of “Rhythm on the Rails” is blues and brats night. Sabin’s Café will be grilling delicious brats, burgers and hot dogs for guests to purchase. The rest of the summer concert series will have a variety of food by Sabin’s Café and food trucks.

Full Schedule of “Rhythm on the Rails”

The Wade Cabin

Wade Cabin

Did you know?

When entering The Settlement from the South, as most guests do, the first cabin on the left stands out as a masterpiece of pioneer engineering. The Wade Cabin is a two-story cabin with two large attached porches and a dogtrot – a central breezeway on the lower floor of the cabin that divides it into two foundational structures. This shaded cove channels the wind on hot summer days, bringing much-needed relief to its inhabitants after a day of labor.

The Wade Cabin was built from reclaimed logs. The cabin was previously owned by Tom Wade of Kenton, Tennessee, who donated the structure to Discovery Park of America in 2012.

The Wade Cabin is home to the Settlement’s craftsmen and historical interpreters. When ascending the stairs on the front of the cabin, entering the left pen will take you into the immersive shop of historical interpreter Mike Ramsey, who can be found making soap, candles, woven goods, brooms or even dying yarn with plants found around the park on certain days of the week.

Entering the room on the right, one will behold the weaving world of craftsmen Carol Whitmore and Kenny Crews. Carol demonstrates basket weaving, a craft she has honed over 35 years in historical interpretation. Carol has woven hundreds of baskets during this time, and is quick to tell guests that the trick is, “over and under… over and under… then over and under again!” Kenny  weaves chair bottoms, including splint, cane, rush and webbing seats, and can often be seen restoring chairs that are as old as the Settlement’s cabins themselves. Stop by and see Carol Whitmore and Kenny Crews in the Wade Cabin on certain days of week.

The craftsmen serve as a living museum, exhibiting skills almost entirely lost to recent generations. To see beyond with our craftsmen, visit Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Q & A with Jennifer Wildes about AgriCulture: Innovating for Our Survival

If you are a follower of Discovery Park of America on any social media, or if you are subscribed to our newsletter, you may have seen an increase of posts and articles on the new agriculture exhibition, “AgriCulture: Innovating for Our Survival.” This exciting new exhibit is scheduled to open Dec. 5, 2020.

It takes a lot of hard work, research, time and organization to build an exhibit. Jennifer Wildes, who is the park’s exhibits and collections director, is the liaison between the partners, exhibit designers and internal staff to make sure this exhibit is exactly up to Discovery Park standards and that the facts are shared. We asked her how organizations and individuals who are passionate about agriculture can get involved.

What is “AgriCulture: Innovating for Our Survival?

“Agriculture: Innovating for Our Survival” is a new, permanent exhibit that will open in the Simmons Bank Ag Center in December of this year. It will focus on telling the story of innovation in agriculture and explain why innovating was and is so vital to the agriculture world — especially as today’s farmers are navigating the challenge to provide more food, fuel and fiber to a growing population while using less of our shared resources. We have a robust section on our website dedicated to the exhibit, and if anyone is interested in finding out more about it, they can visit www.discoveryparkofamerica.com/agriculture.

How can organizations and individuals participate in this new exhibit?

We are still raising funds through our development department and are happy to meet with interested people one-on-one to discuss a gift to the new exhibit. We still need around $90,000 to be able to complete the exhibit in its entirety and would be grateful for support of any amount. An option for individuals rather than organizations would be to become a Champion of Agriculture.

If someone chooses to become a Champion of Agriculture, what do they need to do to become involved?

A Champion of Agriculture refers to an individual or family that wishes to make a contribution of any amount towards the exhibit. Those greatly appreciated donations can be easily made by clicking the Champion of Agriculture link available on the exhibit’s section of our website or by visiting discoveryparkofamerica.com/agchampion.

Will there be any sort of recognition if someone chooses to become a Champion of Agriculture?

Absolutely. As soon as visitors walk through the doors into the new exhibit, they will be greeted with a visual display of givers from all levels, including Champions of Agriculture. In fact, when making a Champion of Agriculture contribution on our website, there is a section where donors can tell us exactly how they would like their recognition to be worded for that display.

What are you looking forward to the most about this exciting new exhibit on agriculture?

Honestly, it is so hard to choose. Overall, I think I am most excited to see our visitor’s response. It is a path that I traveled myself during the development of the exhibit. I do not come from an agriculture background, so I was ignorant on a lot of topics that we present within the exhibit. Agriculture’s diversity — in the way of workers, jobs, ideas, and practices — is much more than I ever imagined. I have been able to learn so much and developed a great appreciation for those who work in the agriculture field, and I can’t wait for our visitors to experience the same.

Have you ever wanted to try printmaking?

Have you ever wanted to try printmaking?

Craft time!

This project is based on the early method of woodblock printing that can be dated back to before 220 C.E. Woodblock printing is considered one of the oldest forms of art. It involves creating a stamp and using the stamp to press ink onto paper, cloth or another material. Early prints were stamped in one color, black, for many years. As time progressed, more colors were available, but every time a new color was added, a new block had to be created. One of the world’s most well-known pieces of art, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, was created by woodblock printing.

For this activity, we will be substituting paint for ink and potatoes for woodblocks.

This craft involves some cutting; so we recommend parent supervision/help.

Instructions:

Step 1) Carefully cut your potato in half.

Step 2) Draw a design onto the surface of the potato using a marker, pen or toothpick.

Step 3) Cut around the design, leaving it raised on the potato’s surface.

Step 4) Pour your paint into a plate or saucer, and dab the potato in the paint to coat the raised portion evenly. You can even wash your potato afterwards to be used again with a different color.

Step 5) Let the paper dry and hang up your art!

Faces of Farming

When “AgriCulture: Innovating for Our Survival,” Discovery Park’s permanent exhibit dedicated to telling the story of innovation in agriculture opens on Dec. 5, 2020, a memorable part will no doubt be the “faces of farming” that will be on display featuring photographs taken around the region by photographer Luke Johnson. “If your first thought of a farmer is of the stereotype that we see in popular culture, the reality may just surprise you,” said Jennifer Wildes, Discovery Park’s exhibits director. “The men and women who chose to dedicate their lives to providing food, fuel and fiber for families around the world vary in age, gender and race just like other industries.” In anticipation of the opening of the exhibit, Discovery Park has created an online gallery at Discoveryparkofamerica.com/facesoffarming to share just a few of the hundreds of photos that have been taken of farmers, ranchers and others who are part of the agriculture industry today and who will be included in the exhibit.

The exhibit will open Dec. 5, 2020 in the Simmons Bank Ag Center.

Major sponsors of this exhibit are Nutrien Ag Solutions and Simmons Bank. To learn about more of our sponsors, click here.

For a current list of Champions of Agriculture, visit the website.

To partner with Discovery Park on this very important exhibit, email Mary Nita Bondurant at mbondurant@discoveryparkofamerica.com or call 731-676-3556.

Discover Park Presents the Story of Innovation in Agriculture Both Inside and Out

One aspect of “AgriCulture: Innovating for Our Survival,” Discovery Park’s permanent exhibit dedicated to telling the story of innovation in agriculture, that requires a unique approach is a large observation honey bee hive that will display the internal components and working of an active hive. Stephen Penick, an occupational therapist, beekeeper and owner of Star Pastures Apiary, is working closely with Solid Light on the production of the display unit and is providing the bees for the hive that will offer a unique glimpse into the daily life of a working colony of honey bees within the exhibit. Additionally, scientists from the pollinator team at Bayer U.S. – Crop Science have been providing research and educational materials for this area of the exhibit that will help educate the public on the role of pollinators like bees and butterflies in agriculture today.

While the exhibit design team has been working with these new partners and many others to develop this one-of-a-kind exhibit, they’ve also been working with sponsor Nutrien Ag Solutions to begin turning the area in front of the Simmons Bank Ag Center into a working display of crops frequently grown throughout the region. Row crops like corn, cotton and soybeans will eventually be seen growing on what is now a lush, green lawn. Plans also include space for flowering plants that will offer nectar and pollen throughout the growing season to attract and support a variety of pollinators. This section will also connect to Discovery Park’s existing vineyard that produces grapes that are harvested and then sold to area wineries.

Mike Hansbrough, area resource biologist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is also working with the exhibit designers and Discovery Park’s grounds director, John Watkins, to make certain guests can learn more about the role of conservation in agriculture today. “The NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources,” said Hansbrough. “I’m excited we can help educate the public on how we provide technical expertise and conservation planning for farmers and landowners wanting to make conservation improvements to their land.” Roundstone Native Seed will be working with Hansbrough and providing a diverse selection of native seeds for the pollinator garden, and the East Tennessee Nursery and Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is providing a selection of hardwood shrub seedlings selected specifically for wildlife habitat enhancement.

The exhibit will open Dec. 5, 2020 in the Simmons Bank Ag Center.

Major sponsors of this exhibit are Nutrien Ag Solutions and Simmons Bank. To learn about more of our sponsors, click here.

For a current list of Champions of Agriculture, visit the website.

To partner with Discovery Park on this very important exhibit, email Mary Nita Bondurant at mbondurant@discoveryparkofamerica.com or call 731-676-3556.

Discovery Park of America Announces Additional Partners and New Details for Upcoming Exhibit on Innovation in Agriculture

Dresser Winn, a Nutrien Ag Solutions intern and University of Tennessee at Martin agriculture student, preparing to plant seeds that will become a display of crops that will include cotton, soybeans, corn and hemp on Discovery Park’s Innovation Farm.

We’re so excited to announce new partners and more details for “AgriCulture: Innovating for Our Survival,” a permanent exhibit dedicated to telling the story of innovation in agriculture. The exhibit will open Dec. 5, 2020 in the Simmons Bank Ag Center.

New partners include The Dairy Alliance; East Tennessee Nursery and Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry; H&R Agri-Power and Case IH; Roundstone Native Seed; “Silo”; Star Pastures Apiary; Tennessee Beef Promotion Board; and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Tennessee Beef Promotion Board has contributed $50,000 to the exhibit that tells the story of farming innovation in the past, present—and especially—future in a fun and interactive way. Visitors of all ages will gain an understanding of how food and fiber get from the farm to the family and the role technological, scientific and genetic innovation in agriculture plays in society and culture around the world. “Those of us who work every day in the agriculture industry are always looking for fun ways to educate the public on where their food comes from,” said Valerie Bass, executive director of the board. “The board and I believe an exhibit with facts about innovation in all areas of agriculture is going to fill that need in a unique way.”

Guests to Discovery Park have seen a completely refurbished 1914 Case steam engine on display in front of the Simmons Bank Ag Center. When the new exhibit opens, that example of innovation of the past will be on display next to a modern tractor of today loaded with new technology thanks to H&R Agri-Power and Case IH. “We’re excited about this opportunity to help educate the public on the latest and greatest advancements in farm equipment,” said Wayne Hunt, president of a 17-store Case IH dealership with stores in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi and Alabama. “I’m certain visitors to this exhibit are going to be surprised at how modern tools are allowing farmers to maximize both their time and their resources,” said Hunt. H&R Agri-Power and Case IH are also making a $50,000 contribution to the exhibit.

The Dairy Alliance, a nonprofit funded by dairy farm families of the Southeast, is contributing $15,000 to the project. “On behalf of dairy farm families, we work to educate the public with facts about dairy foods and the innovation taking place in dairy that allows farmers to do more with less,” said Denise Jones, manager for farm relations for Kentucky and Tennessee. “We believe a fun exhibit like this one is a great way to help people learn more about this important aspect of agriculture.”

The exhibit designers at Solid Light, the firm chosen by Discovery Park to create this new exhibit, are also working with Samuel Goldberg, producer of “Silo”, to tell the story of how innovation impacts farm safety. “Silo” is a film inspired by the story of an 18-year-old farmhand who got stuck in a grain silo. Goldberg spent five years researching with farmers and rural fire departments on the topic of farm safety in order to produce the film.

Major sponsors of this exhibit are Nutrien Ag Solutions and Simmons Bank. To learn about more of our sponsors, click here.

For a current list of Champions of Agriculture, visit the website.

To partner with Discovery Park on this very important exhibit, email Mary Nita Bondurant at mbondurant@discoveryparkofamerica.com or call 731-676-3556.

Whimsical Art Added to the 50-acre Outdoor Heritage Park

Whimsical Art Added to the 50-acre Outdoor Heritage Park

When we reopen our 50-acre outdoor heritage park to the public on June 1, 2020, you will see a new addition that is “out of this world.” The whimsical piece of art, sculpted and donated by John Toras from Marshall County, Ky., is constructed of stainless steel and named Master of the Universe. It features a child holding a spaceship that spins in the wind.

When asked why he named this particular piece the Master of the Universe, John said, “The children of the world today are the future of tomorrow. They can all be the master of the universe one day.” And we couldn’t agree more.

John began applying his skills as a certified pipe fitter and welder to create art in 1977 when he began experimenting with various techniques and methods of welding. He begins most pieces with scrap stainless steel he picks up from a variety of places around his home.

“We often say that you’ll find something inspirational around every corner at Discovery Park,” said Jennifer Wildes, director of exhibits. “Because of all the unique, one-of-kind artifacts on display both inside and out, this artwork fits in very nicely here.”

You can experience a whole display of John’s artwork when we receive more than 15 pieces for an outdoor exhibit that will be open July 1 – Oct. 2, 2020. But until then, come visit our 50 acres of inspiration when we open June 1. We will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for deep cleaning. Purchase your tickets online and save 15% and enjoy no-touch admission.

Q & A with Kayce Workman about the Tennessee Naturalist Program

Discovery Park of America is excited to team up with the Tennessee Naturalist Program to offer courses focusing on the nature in the state, instilling an appreciation of responsible environmental stewardship and channeling volunteer efforts toward education of the general public and conservation of Tennessee’s natural resources.

Recently, we sat down with Kayce Workman, Discovery Park’s aquarium and wildlife assistant director and asked her a couple of questions about the program.

What is the Tennessee Naturalist Program?

This program is set up to teach participants about the natural world around them. It also works to inspire a desire to continue learning and helps to instill an appreciation of responsible environmental stewardship. The program works to build a volunteer community that tries to educate the general public and help conserve our natural resources.

The mission of the Tennessee Naturalist Program is “inspiring the desire to learn and share Tennessee’s nature.”

This program is excellent for adults 18 and older that are interested in the natural history of our state and want to expand their knowledge. Our chapter will cover ten topics that touch on all aspects of the natural history of northwest Tennessee with the diverse Reelfoot Lake being one of our focal points.

What are some of the topics covered in this program?

The Tennessee Naturalist Program is an amazing set of courses that cover every aspect of Tennessee’s natural history. Participants start out with lessons that will discuss skills, tasks, tools and resources needed to be a naturalist. They will learn the aspects of interpretation and proper programming principles and techniques. The courses will cover the wildlife, plants, trees, fungi, water systems, geology, ecology and astronomy of northwest Tennessee. During the course of the program, participants will also learn about volunteer opportunities and meet professionals in the field.

Where do all the participants travel to during the course of this program?

Participants will spend in-class sessions at Discovery Park of America, Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge visitor center and the University of Tennessee at Martin Environmental Field Station. The class will then leave these locations and explore the varying and fascinating areas of the Reelfoot Lake ecosystem and the University of Tennessee at Martin campus that is home to a large variety of Tennessee native trees.

Discovery Park of America will provide transportation starting at the park and returning when the class ends. During the current global pandemic we will be taking social distancing into account.

What are you looking forward to while facilitating the Tennessee Naturalist Program here at Discovery Park of America?

When I first started looking into this program, I was excited that the Tennessee Naturalist Program’s mission was directly in-line with our mission at Discovery Park. I can’t wait to meet people around the area who have an appreciation for Tennessee’s natural history and want to continue to see beyond. I hope to utilize their passion and knowledge of Tennessee through special programming at Discovery Park, as well as local state and federal parks, schools and libraries. Hopefully we will build a community of nature enthusiasts who will work together to educate generations to come!

What advice do you have for someone who is considering signing up for this program?

This program is full of excellent material and led by professionals in the field. It will be extremely beneficial for anyone wanting to expand their knowledge and give back to their community and environment. I would advise all participants who sign up to actively participate in each of the classes and ask plenty of questions. The teachers lined up for the classes are very knowledgeable and enjoy sharing their passion with others. Anyone who is interested in participating should be enthusiastic and prepared to put in 40 hours of course work throughout a 9 month period and 40 hours of volunteer service that can be accumulated throughout the time period of the classes, and an additional 12 months after the final class to be fully certified as a Tennessee Naturalist.

Registration Information

The classes are open for adults ages 18 and older will be held on Saturday mornings beginning Aug. 29, 2020 at 8 a.m. and Discovery Park’s health and safety guidelines for guests will be in effect. The 10 classes are limited to just 20 participants and costs $250 for all 10 days and all class materials. A schedule of classes with more information is located at DiscoveryParkofAmerica.com/TNP and registration will open on the TNP website on June 1, 2020.

For answers to questions, contact Kayce Workman at kworkman@discoveryparkofamerica.com or 731-885-5455, ext. 1154.

Discovery Park of America is strictly following all recommended health and safety guidelines for employees and guests.

 

Q & A with Polly Brasher

The Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM) has elected Polly Brasher as their president of the organization. Founded in 1960, TAM serves individuals and organizations who work for and with Tennessee museums through professional development, collaboration and advocacy.

Polly was the very first employee of Discovery Park of America and is currently the director of education at the park. With years of teaching and museum experience, she brings a great wealth of knowledge to the team.

Recently, we sat down with Polly and asked her a couple of questions regarding her work in the museum world, why it’s important for other museum professionals to join organizations like TAM and what advice she would give someone who wants to succeed in the museum industry.

What is your favorite part of working in the museum industry? Museums are non-competitive. I grew up in a highly competitive business, began working there at the age of 8. If you found something that worked, something that sold well, or something that won awards, it was kept in-house as long as possible. In the wonderful world of museums, we share the best ideas and are eager to help one another. Of course, we also share what did not work well, but again, it’s to help our colleagues. This is a truly beautiful thing.

Why do you think it’s important for others working in museums to join organizations like TAM? TAM is a grand way to share and learn. We offer conferences and workshops, of course, but we also offer a network. When I was tasked with creating the organizational chart for Discovery Park, I did a great deal of research, but what I found was that there is no industry standard, and the charts out there are extremely dissimilar. After a workshop in Brownsville, three TAM board members sat with me, going over the charts I had made and helping to choose the best and then tweak it to make it even better. Without TAM, I might as well have been throwing darts at a wall to choose one. Today, I have many more than three people on whom I can call for advice and help.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing museum professionals as they begin to reopen in the coming months? The unknown is always the biggest challenge, under any circumstance. Right now, though, the blessing is that we are all wondering the same things: When is the right time to open, what is the correct way to open, what is the best way to protect staff and volunteers as well as guests? We are all working toward the same goal at the same time. With this shared focus, it is great time to work together even more than we ever have.

What difference do you think Discovery Park has made to the region? Discovery Center was designed to be striking and unique, to stop traffic that is traveling at 70 miles an hour. The park was designed to be a place of learning and exploration. What Discovery Park is, though, is a beacon of hope. When Goodyear closed, people looked to Discovery Park for hope and jobs. When people are having a bad day or a difficult time, they come to the park to walk or to spend quality time with family or to just focus on something beautiful or interesting for a while. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, I think people are watching to see how we handle the crisis. When we reopen our doors, I believe, and the survey results will back me up on this, that people will breathe a little easier and know that there is still hope and a place to go for comfort, beauty, learning and fun.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a successful career in the museum industry? Be curious. If you are not interested in the things, places and people around you, then you need a different career path. The museum world is about the discoveries, failures, struggles, innovations and successes of people. We are storytellers, and the stories are sometimes unpleasant, but we have to be truth tellers. We cannot settle for a glossed-over version of anything. We research and validate and then tell the story. Sometimes we have to say we do not yet know, but curiosity will continue to lead us to more answers.