The Rochester Museum & Science Center creates inspiring, entertaining and educational experiences engaging the community in the exploration of science and technology, the natural environment, and our region's cultural heritage.
---RMSC Mission adopted by the Board of Trustees and recorded in
the Meeting Minutes of November 26, 1997.
History of the RMSC
For more than ninety years, RMSC staff have directed their knowledge and passion for history and science to benefit the community's learners. When the Board of Trustees adopted the above mission statement, they affirmed a continuity of purpose evident from the institution's earliest beginnings in 1912 as the City of Rochester's Municipal Museum.
Assuming the directorship in 1924, New York State Archaeologist Arthur C. Parker developed the museum's collections and research in anthropology, natural history, geology, biology, and history and industry of the Genesee Region. A dedicated museum professional, Parker encouraged staff development and contributed influential writings on museum collections and programs to the field. Deeply committed to serving the community, he saw the museum as a laboratory and a meeting place for researchers and study clubs, and called it the "University of the Common Man." Among Parker's most important legacies were a WPA funded program, the Indian Arts Project, and the building of Bausch Hall, a new museum building.
In 1945, W. Stephen Thomas, a trained museologist from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, succeeded Arthur Parker. Thomas' enthusiasm for learning was contagious. He believed the best way to learn about artifacts and exhibits was by the side of a "knowledgeable guide," 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 nationally recognized dioramas and tremendous growth of collections in history, technology, natural science, archaeology and anthropology. He added acreage to the museum campus and created a stunning urban oasis with a variety of gardens. In 1968, Thomas opened the state-of-the-art Strasenburgh Planetarium adjacent to the Museum, and the institution's name officially changed to the Rochester Museum & Science Center. 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 museum received a charter from the NYS Board of Regents as a private, not-for-profit educational institution.
Thomas' successor, Richard C. Shultz, devoted his efforts from 1973-1996 to upgrading the RMSC's physical facilities with new exhibition and educational spaces as well as offices, conservation and research laboratories and collections storage vaults. Shultz oversaw the building of a 400-seat auditorium and a classroom building for lifelong learning programs, and he acquired a facility nearby to house RMSC's extensive history, technology and archaeology collections. Forty miles away, he established the 900-acre Cumming Nature Center. Through his leadership, the museum added a spacious new wing in 1988. Elaine Wilson Hall offered a flexible exhibit gallery and a permanent exhibition exploring local Haudenosaunee Iroquois heritage.
Current RMSC President Kate Bennett (1996-present) shares a background in museology, anthropology and natural science, as well as a passion for informal education with her predecessors Parker and Thomas. With a state-of-the-art physical plant in place, she challenged staff and trustees to craft a new, visitor-focused mission statement, and to work zestfully toward fulfilling that statement of purpose.
Bennett continues to inspire her staff to understand and create interactive visitor experiences that resonate with different learning styles and communicate the excitement of experimentation and discovery.