2020 Michigan Museums Association Awards

From the Nominators

Colleague Champion

  • Theodore J. Bornhorst, A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech. Nominated by John Jaszczak.
    After the mineral museum was closed due to state and  university regulations, Dr. Bornhorst developed a detailed plan for reopening the museum in a manner that more than complied with state and university guidelines, and then advocated with the university administration to reopen the museum as soon as possible since our busiest season was about to start in the summer. His plans were accepted by the university, and the museum was allowed to reopen on July 1, about 1.5 months earlier than originally anticipated. Visitation has been strong ever since, and many visitors comment how pleased they are that we have opened when so many institutions and venues were closed. At the same time, Dr. Bornhorst planned and prepared to help me transition into the role of Director and Curator, which started on July 1. Due to other commitments that I had at the university at the time, I was not able to fully participate in transitioning ahead of July 1, so Dr. Bornhorst's preparations, and his continued meeting with me once or twice a week virtually or in-person has been invaluable to me and to the museum for a very smooth transition! He also coordinated an appropriately-sized, safe, and highly successful summer field collecting conference (Keweenaw Mineral Days) in July that was acclaimed by the participants.

  • Kayla Chenault, Detroit Historical Society. Nominated by Kayla Draper. 
    Kayla took a look at the pandemic and saw it as an opportunity to expand the Detroit Historical Society’s storytelling abilities. A new web series was created, called Pint-Sized Prohibitions and Detroit History Heroes, allowing new stories to be told. Emerging trends like baking and cocktail mixing were combined with a history lesson. The stories being told in the web series are not something that the Society is able to feature in its physical space, but by bringing these stories online, the Society was able to tell them and reach a larger audience than they could have on site. January 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the Detroit Historical Society. 

  • Malcolm Cottle, Ruth Mott Foundation/Applewood. Nominated by Renee Saba. 
    In addition to all his other work, Malcolm took on the role of our in-house professional videographer, digital content editor, and tech consultant. As I tried wrapping my head around how to convert our entire 2020 program into a meaningful virtual experience Malcolm took all the digital content I threw his way and turned it into something worth sharing. Several times he jumped in on short notice to record videos that he later edited as well. Malcolm also did research on what additional equipment we would need to offer high-quality program experiences. Without all the work Malcolm put into the programming, I would have had a lot less overall output, and it would likely have been a poorer quality at that.

  • Steve Crawford, Kalamazoo Valley Museum. Nominated by Regina Gorham. 
    When staff started packing up their offices in March, Steve brought home the Planetarium’s workstation. By April, he had reformatted the in-person Star Talks given in the dome at the KVM’s Planetarium to facilitate an online audience. Each Star Talk was a little different, taking into account changes in the stars in the Kalamazoo area and taking cues from the groups signed up. The online format led to reaching new audiences, even out-of-state, and continued the Planetarium’s programming throughout the months the Museum was closed to the public. 

  • Christian Greer, Michigan Science Center. Nominated by Megan McCullen. 
    The Science Center offered extensive free, live virtual interactive science programming every day on their website and Facebook, engaging thousands of children and families each week with science, with a program they created called ECHO Live!. Equipment was taken home to basements to make the show work, and incorporated other staff for programs. Throughout everything, the museum stuck to their mission of making science available to kids. When they did open in July, they found foundation funds to make the museum available for free to visitors all summer. 

  • Sara Gross, Michigan History Center. Nominated by Jill Eastcott.
    Sara always made time to assist me during lockdown so I could stay connected to the greater organization (setting me up on all the platforms) and to help me adapt our engagement tools and techniques. She quickly answered all my tech and best practice questions even when she had much bigger fish to fry while the entire organization acted to take on numerous digital initiatives.

  • Tom Howes, Kalamazoo Valley Museum. Nominated by Regina Gorham.
    On the exhibits calendar for this year, slated for May, was an exhibit commemorating the 40th anniversary of the tornado that ripped through Kalamazoo. Exhibits and Collections staff were ready with our timeline of installation. When it became clear that we would not be back in the office in time to install the exhibit, Tom began working on a digital solution. He learned the new platform, set up the site and did an overall design that made it look like we had planned an online exhibit all along. Without his hard work and quick thinking, we would not have been able to put this exhibit out into the community. 

  • Nheena Ittner, UP Children’s Museum. Nominated by Lisa Craig Brisson. 
    Nheena has thrown everything at the kitchen sink to open the museum and serve the community. She was strategizing how to reopen within days of the shutdown and has come up with innovative ways to welcome children to the museum at a time when most of the state’s childrens museums are still closed. She will not take no for an answer. Nheena also joined several colleague chats and helped inspire others. 

  • Andrew Kercher, Port Huron Museum. Nominated by Veronica Campbell. 
    When everything shut down, Andrew took it upon himself to keep the Museum engaged with our community by doing almost daily walks of historical streets and areas of Port Huron. As he would walk, he would stream through Facebook Live videos to our followers and talk about the history of the area, the historical homes and businesses. His videos were incredibly well received, averaging about 8000 views per video, and his most popular video had about 22000 views total. We even had interactions with viewers from Italy during their shut down, and all across America. This gave us the opportunity to pursue purchasing a trolley for $1 and creating our own trolley historical tours and programs, which opened a completely new revenue stream for the Museum. Andrew has taken his walking tours and put together 3 new programs for our trolley tours, and our community has responded really well to purchasing tickets for these programs. So, not only did Andrew help the Museum keep our community engaged during quarantine, his walks also led to the creating of new programming and furthering our mission for our community.

  • Felicia Konrad-Bevard, Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. Nominated by Julie Cook. 
    Took Covid preparations to the next level! From research and webinars, working on reopening and disinfecting procedures, making sure products were safe, effective, and MSD sheets were updated, making masks for our entire staff – not only was Felicia integral to our Covid adjustments, she was caring and compassionate no matter the circumstance or changes that came our way. In addition to her work at the Ford House, she has been working on multiple MMA committees during the pandemic. 

  • Dean Nasserdine, Detroit Historical Society. Nominated by Kayla Draper. 
    Dean was an integral part of taking on the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep with the Detroit Historical Society’s mission of telling Detroit’s stories and why they matter. Dean jumped on emerging trends (like baking and cocktail mixing) and combined it with a history lesson. This created a new web series, Pint-Sized Prohibitions and Detroit History Heroes, allowing new stories of Detroit history to be told. 

  • Katie Ponsetto, Historic Charlton Park. Nominated by Shannon Pinkster.
    When it was realized that in-person field trips to Historic Charlton Park were not going to be an option for the near future, Katie worked hard to create a digital format of the field trip program. She worked with a film company and volunteers to film portions of the presentations, and also created additional content for groups to do in the classroom. She created a portal on the Park's website for educators to access the materials, and the program rolls out soon!

  • Katherine Prichard, University of Michigan Museum of Art. Nominated by Adam Johnson.
    Through her work as Associate Registrar at the UMMA, she has done a series of internship and student worker Zoom sessions which have been very successful and popular to young museum professionals. Using the Coronavirus pandemic in constructive ways, she's been able to use digital presence to not only put out her institution's name but also further her own career and awareness in the museum community. As a fellow young museum professional, I am very proud of her and amazed at what's she's been able to achieve remotely!

  • Sarah Schleicher, Cranbrook Institute of Science. Nominated by Joshua Archey. 
    Sarah Schleicher represents a new generation of young museum professionals, in the very best of ways.  Sarah is an extraordinary talent, able to educate, inspire and lead those around her with a level of professionalism and attention to detail that is difficult to teach.  Her ability to deliver inspiring and engaging programs to diverse audiences is most impressive, as is her work ethic and ability to inspire others.  We are fortunate to have Sarah at Cranbrook as she continues to evolve into one of the finest museum educators I've encountered in my 20 plus years in the museum setting.

  • Nancy Swords, Cranbrook Institute of Science. Nominated by Joshua Archey. 
    Nancy quickly pivoted the entire staff to remote work via Microsoft Teams, and pivoted the annual Flint internship program, which annually brings 20 or more Flint high school students to CIS for two weeks of learning how museums operate and what career opportunities exist in the museum field, online. The Flint students used their digital devices to interact with and complete projects each day. The program, while different from prior years, was deemed a resounding success by Flint Schools, Cranbrook, and the students involved. Nancy Swords is a consummate museum professional who always puts the needs of our thousands of guests before anything else.  From their safety and wellness to the richness of their experience at Cranbrook, Nancy leads the way for all of us at Cranbrook in terms of excellence, caring and an extraordinary spirit of service.  The Institute would not be where we are today were it not for Nancy's tireless advocacy for the quality experiences guests of all ages and backgrounds receive when they walk through our doors, or our staff walk through theirs.  She is a valued friend and colleague like few others.

  • Brittany Williams, Kalamazoo Valley Museum. Nominated by Regina Gorham. 
    Brittany worked really hard to make the 40th anniversary tornado exhibit happen on site. After going through all the planning and research, label writing and layout work, we were all feeling a bit let down that we wouldn’t see the exhibit come to life in our space. Brittany shook off that disappointment and shifted it to re-formatting text and working to get the exhibit into an online format. She deftly moved to get images and re-formatted text to Tom, and was able to facilitate the launching of the site in May, prior to the anniversary, on an entirely new and unplanned platform.  


  • Air Zoo
    In the spring of 2020, the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo debuted Launchpad to Learning, a free resource that shares videos with information about the Air Zoo’s collection, and offered at home educational experiences families could recreate. Following up on that success, 2020 Virtual Summer Camps provided kits of supplies so that students could do experiments from the safety of their home with live virtual guidance from Air Zoo Educators. 

  • Berrien County Historical Association
    The shutdown and a variety of grants allowed the Berrien County Historical Association to tackle much needed maintenance projects to expand community offerings and led to more financial support from Berrien County. They also installed temporary exhibits, created stay at home projects for kids and adults, replaced permanent exhibits, added new interpretive signage, and took care of behind the scenes projects that were long overdue and will have long-term benefits. 

  • Harbor Springs Area Historical Society
    The Harbor Springs Historical Museum adapted its biggest annual fundraiser to a socially distant boat parade.  It was the only community event around the July 4 holiday and replaced the annual parade, bringing the community together for the first time since the stay home, stay safe order. Local businesses hung nautical flags, media outlets covered the event and 160 watercraft participated in the parade. 

  • Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center
    Although theMichigan Supreme Court Learning Center in Lansing is still closed to the public and with staff working remotely, in person tours were replaced with webinars. Annual events like Law Day, Constitution Day, and Exploring Careers in Law were redesigned as asynchronous resources or live webinars and staff also created videos with judges, justices and court staff. An e-newsletter was started, staff collaborated with other local organizations, and reorganized the website.

  • Sanilac County Historical Society
    The Sanilac County Historical Society wrote grants for instant hot water heaters and eight touchless hand sanitizers, and received donations of hand sanitizer. Created self-guided tours and Pop-Up wedding packages. The wedding packages included all details and supported several local businesses that provide wedding services. New outdoor events were instituted as well.  

COVID Crusader

Photos available by clicking each name. 
  • Christy Kincaid, Air Zoo. Nominated by Regina Gorham. 
    Christy took to her sewing machine and pumped out masks to give to healthcare professionals when everyone was low on PPE. She also kindly made masks for her friends when they were all scrambling to protect themselves and their families.

  • Tobi Voigt, Michigan History Center. Nominated by Jill Eastcott.
    Tobi sewed masks and donated them to front line workers. She also volunteered at the Capital Community Services food bank.

  • Edsel and Eleanor Ford House. Nominated by Cynthia Sohn. 
    Staff gathered N95 masks, nitrile gloves, protective aprons, and other cleaning supplies to donate to Detroit Hospitals at the start of the pandemic. They hung ribbons and signs of support for essential workers along the main road near the institution and dug up thousands of tulips from the Tribute Garden. These tulips, as well as gourmet suppers, were distributed to essential workers. Supporting Detroit and the valued essential workers during a crisis is part of the legacy of Eleanor and Edsel Ford.

    The Michigan Museums Association is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council

    Thank you to our Partners!

    Michigan Museums Association       313-334-7643       PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721      lcbrisson@michiganmuseums.org

    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software