Name: Martin Smith
How are you connected to the Montshire?
I've been a volunteer explainer for a little shy of a year. (Explainers trot about in blue aprons providing host-type services such as greeting groups, leading Science Discovery Lab activities, picking up debris, aligning the magnetic signs, explaining that the dinosaur exhibit was only temporary, and doing anything else that’s needed.)
Why do you choose to be involved?
I'm a retired scientist and I wanted an avocation that made at least some contribution to science education and also provided regular contact with adults I like and respect. For me, the Montshire has more than fulfilled those needs. Also we get free cookies at our monthly meetings.
When was the first time you came to the Montshire?
It was perhaps seventeen years ago. I had no idea of course that Montshire would play a role later in my life.
What is your favorite exhibit?
At the moment it's the thermal infrared camera near the visiting exhibition area; it reminds me that there is much more going on in the world than we perceive with our unassisted senses. The leafcutter ants are also high on the list, with queen spotting being one of the principal sports.
What do you wish everyone knew about the Museum?
I have two items: The first is how much talented effort it takes to keep the Museum functioning smoothly in a day-to-day way. It's clear to me from watching this process for a while that the real heart of the museum is its experienced staff, without which the physical plant would be pointless. I can't over-emphasize this point (also I'm hoping for more cookies). The second item is the wide array of activities outside of normal museum hours, which occur both on-site and off-site, such as in-school programs by the education staff. I'd guess that most outsiders are unaware the extent of this contribution by the museum.
Is there one word you would use to describe the Museum?
What do you wish we could do more of in the future?
Recycling and moving exhibits around: it seems as though there has been a recent surge in doing this and it really helps keep the museum visits feel fresh. And cookies.
What do you find most rewarding about volunteering at the Montshire?
Helping the younger visitors interact with the exhibits, particularly the bubbles and the ants.
What is the best kept secret at the Montshire?
Rebecca makes cookies for the Explainers on weekends.
What is your favorite Montshire story to tell?
At some point, Rich or Lorenz showed me how to file a maintenance request on the geriatric computer back in the maintenance area, and so I blithely went along filing requests whenever I found anything not working quite right. Later, I had occasion to introduce myself to Bob Raiselis and after I told him my name he said, "Oh yeah, you're the guy who files all those maintenance requests." I felt like I'd found my niche.
Which other museums do you enjoy visiting?
Echo Center, the Hood Museum. I particularly like the Fairbanks Museum and its older, "campy" exhibits.