The Rochester Museum & Science Center stimulates broad community interest and understanding of science and technology, and their impact—past, present, future—on our lives.
Established in 1912 as the City of Rochester, New York's Municipal Museum, the Rochester Museum & Science Center has expanded and evolved to meet the changing needs of the greater Rochester community for a century.
The Museum's first curator, Edward D. Putnam, served from 1913 until 1924, when New York State Archaeologist Arthur C. Parker became museum director. Parker developed the Museum's holdings and research in anthropology, natural history, geology, biology, and history and industry of the Genesee Region. Deeply committed to serving the community, Parker saw the Museum as a "university of the common man." Among Parker's most important legacies were a WPA-funded program, the Indian Arts and Crafts project, and the building of Bausch Hall, a new museum building.
In 1945 W. Stephen Thomas, a trained museum professional from Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, succeeded Arthur Parker. Thomas's enthusiasm for learning was contagious, and he encouraged staff and volunteers to interact with museum visitors within the galleries and through outreach efforts in the community. His tenure saw the creation of state-of-the art dioramas and tremendous growth of collections in history, technology, natural science, archaeology, and anthropology.
Planning for the addition of a planetarium began in 1962, and in 1965 Ian C. McLennan, former director of the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium in Edmonton, Alberta, was appointed director of the new facility in progress. In 1968 the Strasenburgh Planetarium opened adjacent to the Museum, and the institution's name officially changed to the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC). The Board of Trustees assumed operation from the City, accepting the County's promise to fund the Museum's operations and its care of "the people's collections." The RMSC received a charter from the NYS Board of Regents as a private, not-for-profit educational institution.
Following Thomas's retirement in 1968, Ian McLennan served as RMSC Executive Director until he left to become Director of Ontario Place in Toronto in 1972. His successor, Richard C. Shultz, devoted his efforts from 1973-1996 to upgrading the RMSC's physical facilities with new exhibition and educational program spaces. Shultz oversaw the building of the 400-seat Eisenhart Auditorium and the Gannett School classroom building for lifelong learning programs. Forty miles away, he established the 900-acre Cumming Nature Center. Three capital campaigns in 1976, 1983, and 1992 produced the addition of Elaine Wilson Hall to the Museum building, the premier of the Strasenburgh Planetarium's giant-screen film system, improvements to collection storage facilities and laboratories, and a significant increase in the endowment fund. The Richard C. Shultz Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series is an ongoing tribute to his keen intellect and diverse interests.
Current RMSC President Kate Bennett (1996-present) shares a background in museology, anthropology, and natural science, as well as a passion for lifelong learning with her predecessors Parker and Thomas.
Bennett has inspired the staff to understand and create visitor experiences that engage different learning styles and communicate the excitement of hands-on experimenting and discovering. She encouraged streamlining and cross-departmental collaborations for greater workforce efficiency. She spurred efforts to increase accessibility of collections, and cultivated collaborations with community partners as well as other museums and science centers.
Partnership projects with Monroe BOCES 1 brought new interactive learning experiences to the RMSC: the Challenger Learning Center at the Strasenburgh Planetarium (1997); and the Bathysphere Underwater Biological Laboratory (BUBL™) in the Museum (1999). In 2001 the Genesee Community Charter School opened on the RMSC campus.
Responding to contemporary visitor requirements, the RMSC created new galleries featuring increased interactivity and opportunities for families to share fun learning experiences: the Patricia F. Hale Hands-On Gallery in 2001, and the Riedman Gallery in 2006. At the same time, the RMSC is recreating existing galleries, beginning with the spectacular Expedition Earth natural science exhibition that opened in January 2006 and expanded into two additional galleries in 2008.
Working with RMSC managers and Trustees, RMSC president Bennett continues to create and implement strategic business plans for a 21st Century Rochester Museum & Science Center. Understanding the value of careful listening and collaboration, the RMSC will continue to grow and change in concert with the community it serves.