Yet no one would look at Wint's nearly two decades and pronounce them uneventful. He arrived just a few years after the opening of the
He oversaw the debt's refinancing as a
Not only was the drive to build the
Now, 95 percent of exhibitions are operational, up from 75 percent when he arrived, Wint says. The grand Benjamin Franklin National Memorial was brightened, renovated and given a light show honoring its namesake. The theaters were made modern.
At the same time, the
"Each success was built on prior successes," said
One controversial element of the Wint era has been the introduction of big traveling exhibitions. Touring shows have long come in and out of the institute. But, partly to bring in revenue to pay the Futures Center debt, it started bringing in larger shows, some with only the most tangential connection to science. These have become integral to the institute's business model, and now have been enshrined in the building as well.
Cleopatra, mummies, and
"It brought a whole new way of thinking about the institute in bringing contemporary issues to the public," says Wint, 71, who came to
The extent to which the traveling shows are of a residual benefit to the rest of the museum depends on the show. Exit interviews (with between 150 and 250 visitors) revealed that 90 percent of visitors to a dinosaurs show also migrated into the rest of the museum. But for the Leonardo show, only half did. And prices for the special shows can be steep, deterring some.
Others were repelled. " 'Body Worlds' was risky for us," said Wint of the show that brought "plastinated" bodies to the institute. "We were the second museum in the U.S. to sign a contract on that show. You had full body parts exposed in a community that is religious and conservative." The
Just as compelling, if geared to a different audience, was a 2009 Galileo show. "It was the only time in 400 years that Galileo's telescope traveled outside of
Still, somehow, Wint feels there are goals that have eluded him.
"One of the things I have not been able to accomplish is conveying the importance of science and technology in this community," he said. "This is a town of eds and meds" -- educational and pharmaceutical/medical institutions. "We've got business relationships to science and technology. And it's been hard to get recognition from the community at large about the importance of science and technology. We need to tell our story more outwardly. Entrepreneurs, often they have made their fortunes in science and technology, and then they make their donations to art museums. There is a disconnect."
Wint thinks of events like the Philadelphia Science Festival, which the institute organizes, as a step in the right, populist direction. This spring, the nine-day fair convened dozens of area organizations for experiments in labs, urban naturalist explorations, teacher workshops, and a carnival on the Parkway. It attracted more than 90,000 visitors, sometimes using lures as unlikely as talks on the science of skateboards and hangover cures as a way to more serious pursuits.
"Science is for everyone," says Wint. "We believe everyone can do science, but you have to start out with a positive experience."
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