Alliance Names 2014 Great American Museum Advocates

California Teen, Indianapolis Youngster Will Join Field Leader at Museums Advocacy Day, Feb. 24-25 in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 8, 2014) ─ The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has selected the first two Great American Museum Advocates from nominations submitted by museums of all types and sizes, all across the country.

The winners are Simone Batiste, 16 years old from Oakland, CA, nominated by the Chabot Space & Science Center there, and Spencer Hahn, an 8-year old from Indianapolis nominated by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Chosen for their devotion to their local museum and the ways in which their relationship with these institutions has affected their lives, the winners will be both honorees and participants in Museums Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., February 24–25.

Ms. Batiste is passionate about science, a pursuit sparked and nurtured by the Chabot Center. Her affinity for the museum began at age 5, when she attended science camp at the museum. It was an awakening for the budding scientist. “Those days passed quickly, and I soon found myself engaged in the deeper aspects of science and how the pieces of our universe fit together to solve mysteries,” she said.  Since that introduction, she has taken part in many Chabot Center programs, including traveling to Hong Kong with a group of students from the museum as part of Museums Connect (a State Department-funded international program administered by AAM). At the Hong Kong Science Center her love of science was fueled by interactions with young people her age from around the world who shared her scientific interests. Currently she participates in two Chabot programs: Digital Skies and Peer-to-Peer Planetarium. Her museum educational opportunities have led her to set her sights high; she intends to be a doctor someday.

Spencer Hahn is living, growing, loving proof of the magic of museums. Spencer was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, having suffered a stroke in-utero, leading to symptoms of cerebral palsy, grand mal seizures and neurobehavioral difficulties. His mother, Erica Hahn, was told he would never walk or talk.

Seeking a safe, caring, stimulating environment for her son, Ms. Hahn began taking Spencer to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis when he was a year old. The museum, its staff and the carefully designed exhibits soon had Spencer exceeding all expectations. He took his first steps in the Playscape exhibit, and Ms. Hahn declares that most of Spencer’s “firsts” came at the museum, including his first climbing success and, miraculously, his first words, spoken near the museum’s carousel. He soon claimed Rex, the museum’s large, green, embraceable dinosaur mascot, as his best friend.

“The museum and its staff have given him a much more important milestone,”

Ms. Hahn said. “They teach him to be confident, they teach him to love himself, even when things are hard. And, they teach him how to be a good friend—all because of the way they are with him.  Confidence is a huge milestone and one I see emerging more and more every time we visit.”

Spencer also became a fan of the museum’s Lilly Theater, and is particularly devoted to the actors that perform there, often singing and acting along with each performance. But Spencer especially loves the conclusion of each visit, when he often joins Rex in leading the museum’s daily End of the Day parade. In fact, he has done so 100 times, an occasion celebrated by the museum staff and one which has drawn tears of joy (“My museum loves me,” he cried) from a young man who can teach all of us much about the sheer joy of living.

The 2014 Great American Museum Advocates were chosen from dozens of nominations, all moving testament to the power of museums and the difference they are making for individuals and communities everywhere. These and other compelling stories will be shared with legislators, policy makers, the media and the public to emphasize the profound ways museums are serving Americans. 

“We are honored to have Simone and Spencer be part of our sixth Museums Advocacy Day,” said Alliance president Ford W. Bell. “These two remarkable and inspiring young people bear witness to the amazing impact museums of all types and sizes are having, all across the country. Upon meeting these young role models, members of Congress will understand how museums are essential community institutions.”

Museums Advocacy Day is a collaboration joining the entire museum field in making the case for federal support of museums. More than 300 museum professionals from nearly all 50 states will come to Washington for a day of issue briefings on Feb. 24, followed by a day of visits to Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. For more information and to register for Museums Advocacy Day, please visit www.aam-us.org.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 21,000 individual, 3,000 institutional and 300 corporate members, the Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.

Media Contact

Dewey Blanton
Alliance Communications
202-218-7704