Springfield Science Museum taps Holyoke woman as new director: Jenny Powers will be museum’s first female leader since 1949 

  • Holyoke resident Jenny Powers is the new director of the Springfield Science Museum. IMAGE COURTESY OF SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS

  • This image shows Grace Pettis Johnson, at left, the last female director of the Springfield Science Museum; her tenure ended in 1949. At right is new director Jenny Powers of Holyoke. IMAGE COURTESY OF SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/22/2022 10:17:31 PM
Modified: 3/22/2022 10:16:38 PM

HOLYOKE — It’s been almost 75 years since the Springfield Science Museum had a female director. But with the hiring of Jenny Powers, that drought has ended.

Powers, who lives in Holyoke, has a background as a science educator and has also served as the family engagement coordinator for the Springfield Museums for six years, developing a number of programs for children and families, including online programs during the pandemic.

Now she’s hoping to bring some of those same ideas to the Science Museum, and she’s also taking inspiration from Grace Pettis Johnson, who oversaw the museum from 1910 to 1949.

“What makes our (Science) museum especially vital is that people of all ages can explore ideas together, teaching and learning from each other,” Powers said in a statement. “Our museum can offer fun, entertaining information that will be helpful in the real world.”

Indeed, the museum, founded in 1859, is focused on presenting science in basic ways that makes it relevant to visitors’ lives, she added, which can deepen visitors’ experience and show them how “they can use science to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.”

That’s an idea Johnson shared, Powers says, and her predecessor also opened the the first space in the museum specifically designed for children, a “Junior Room” in the Natural Science Museum in which young visitors can be seen working with real tools in a photograph from the museum’s archives.

Powers says she hopes to bring real tools herself to today’s visitors by adding more technology and hands-on, interactive stations throughout the Science Museum — whatever is needed to present the most up-to-date science.

“We want to be nimble, because science changes as researchers look, discover, and understand more,” said Powers said.

Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums, said Powers was a natural choice for making the Science Museum a consistently “relevant, inspiring, and interactive” space along with the other museums in the complex.

“(We) could not have a better leader than Jenny, who makes science understandable, exciting, and accessible for all people,” said Simpson. “Jenny is highly knowledgeable about current museum practices, innovative in her approaches to education, and she is passionate about inclusion.

“She is just the visionary leader we need to bring our beloved Science Museum into the 21st century and beyond,” added Simpson.

Among a number of new initiatives in recent years, the Science Museum has added a workshop that includes accommodations for students with special needs; an International Space Station gallery is slated to open this summer. Other improvements are being made to basic infrastructure such as the HVAC system.

Ideally, said Powers, the Science Museum will continue to help people answer questions about the world around us. “When we look up at the stars, or deep into the ocean, we’re filled with wonder,” she said. “Museums can be a creative place to help fuel this natural curiosity.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.
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