By Sarah CR Clark
The Bell Museum appointed Holly Menninger as its interim executive director effective April 17.
The Falcon Heights resident and Bell Museum staffer succeeds Denise Young who recently resigned as Bell director to head the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Menninger accepted an invitation from University of Minnesota’s leadership to serve as interim director while the search for a permanent director is underway. Part of the University of Minnesota, the Bell Museum is Minnesota’s official natural history museum.
“I appreciate their confidence in me,” Menninger said of the museum’s leadership team. “It’s really an honor to be able to do this. Denise is leaving very big shoes to fill. She was an extraordinary leader.”
Meanwhile, Bell Museum’s associate director of public engagement and science learning, Jenny Stampe, will temporarily fill Menninger’s job as director of public engagement and science learning while Menninger serves as Bell’s interim executive director.
Young’s seven-year tenure at the Bell Museum included: moving the museum to its new facility at 2088 Larpenteur Ave., significant growth in both visitors (+82,000 annually) and budget (+$5.5 million), the creation of a statewide engagement team and the museum’s 150th anniversary year.
Menninger said her role will be “to continue the good work of the Bell Museum.
“We’re in a really great place and it’s an exciting time here. We are coming out of a strategic planning process and so we’re looking ahead to the next five years. We have a lot of exciting things coming down the road and my job is to keep that momentum going.”
Menninger is a trained entomologist and “a science communicator by passion and practice.” She earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland in ecology.
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Menninger moved to Minnesota from North Carolina in 2018. She has worked at the Bell Museum since then as director of public engagement and science learning.
Menninger said of that position, “I’ve led the team that is responsible for onsite experiences at the Bell Museum. So that’s our exhibits, our planetarium and our K-12 and public programs. We are the largest department within the museum and our team is responsible for all those exciting things that make people want to come to the museum and connect and learn new things.”
Looking ahead, Menninger said, as interim director, she wants to, among other things, connect with audiences statewide, to lean more deeply into the Bell’s science work and work with curators.
She is also looking forward to what this interim position means for her career.
“I’m excited by this challenge and this opportunity to really grow and develop as a leader,” Menninger said.
Sarah CR Clark lives in St. Anthony Park and is regular contributor to the Bugle.