For the first time since it was conceived more than a decade ago, ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum has hired a professional museum director.
Chip Lindsey, who has nearly three decades of experience in science museums, took the helm July 15. He comes to Oregon from Amarillo, Texas, where for four years he was deputy director for the Don Harrington Discovery Center, an interactive museum much like ScienceWorks.
ScienceWorks co-founder Sharon Javna said she was pleased the Rogue Valley was able to attract someone as accomplished as Lindsey.
"He understands what science museums are all about and what they can do for a community," she said. "I have no doubt that he is going to take us into our 10th year with some major accomplishments."
Lindsey, 50, said he is eager to kick off a new era at ScienceWorks.
"I think the museum is really poised right now for a new era of growth," he said. "And I don't think you could ask for a better audience "… the people in Ashland are very engaged and thoughtful, a super caliber that I don't think you can usually match in other parts of the country."
With nearly 100 exhibits at its building on the corner of East Main Street and Walker Avenue, ScienceWorks is utilizing about half of the 20,000 square feet available for exhibit space.
"I think there is a great opportunity for growth within our existing walls, and taking full advantage of this facility," Lindsey said. "That's one of our primary goals."
The bulk of Lindsey's experience was gained at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, where he worked his way up the ladder for 24 years until he became vice president of exhibits and programs. The museum draws nearly a million visitors annually, according to its website.
"I've been in the science center and science business for a long time," Lindsey said, "so when I came here I wanted to really hit the ground running."
Lindsey's wife and three sons are still in Amarillo, waiting for the house to sell before they make the move to Ashland, he said.
"That's going to be the hardest part of it," he said. "It could be a long haul before we get things wrapped up there."
Lindsey's predecessor, Mark DiRienzo, stepped back to ScienceWorks' board of directors in April after filling in as director since 2008. DiRienzo increased museum attendance by 16 percent, despite the downturn in the economy.
"Two years ago, we saw the economic tidal wave coming and Mark's business skills were a perfect fit to lead us through that difficult time," said Javna. "We really appreciate what Mark has done for us and are really looking forward to the future with Chip."
Lindsey, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology from Texas A&M in 1983 and a master's in education and research from Texas Christian University in 2002, said this was his first time in Oregon.
"I don't know what took me so long," he said. "The environment here in Ashland is extraordinary; the surrounding mountains and trees create such a great natural beauty."
Since the building was purchased in 2001 and the museum opened in 2002, ScienceWorks has served more than 150,000 visitors. Last year, it saw almost 46,000 visitors and hopes to top the 50,000 mark by the end of this year, Lindsey said.
"We have a critical role to play in educating our community about current happenings in science," he said.
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email email@example.com.