Science museum

Science Museum of Virginia names post after longtime supporter


When Virginia Celeste Ellett passed away in January at the age of 93 (as her obituary indicates), staff at the Science Museum of Virginia began to think about ways to honor the longtime supporter for her generous bequest of $ 2.4 million. Placing a plaque somewhere in the building didn’t seem like a fitting tribute to the vibrant, creative and visionary Ellett. Employees knew that to commemorate her properly, her name had to be linked to a part of the organization that literally lives and breathes inspiration, curiosity and discovery. They therefore decided to name the post of Director of Education in her honor.

Timshel Purdum will be the first director of education for the Virginia C. Ellett Museum. Since September 2018, when Purdum joined the Science Museum, she has led a group of dedicated staff and volunteers who help audiences of all ages discover their inner scientist. Through demos, videos, activities, camps, workshops and programs, Purdum’s collaborative team helps audiences of all ages connect and enjoy the science around them.

“Timshel shares Virginia’s belief in the wonders of science,” said Carol Beam, cousin and close friend of Ellett. “Although Virginia was very humble, I know she would be so proud to have her name associated with someone who helps nurture lifelong learners who engage in the rapidly changing world that brings them to life. surrounds in a practical way. “

Ellett was passionate about inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders. She has financially supported the Science Museum‘s annual fund for decades. Its $ 2.4 million donation to the organization as a bequest is the second largest donation the Science Museum has ever received.

Ellett has worked in education in various capacities for nearly four decades, most notably at the Mathematics and Science Center for 19 years. She was also very active at the Virginia Academy of Science, where she assisted the director, Dr. Roscoe Hughes, in his lobbying efforts to establish the Science Museum. Ellett was also a jewelry and glass artist. She has donated nearly 20 pieces to the Science Museum over the years, one of which is on display in the Virginia innovators section of The Forge makerspace.

After graduating from Beaverdam High School, Ellett attended Westhampton College at the University of Richmond, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Mathematics. She also attended the University of Virginia, where she obtained an M.Ed. in guidance, and completed graduate studies at Union College, Bowdoin College, Cornell University and the University of Virginia.

Purdum has been active in the museum community for over 25 years. Prior to coming to the Science Museum, she was Assistant Vice President of Public Experience at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University and Vice President of the Philadelphia Board of Museums. She is a peer reviewer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and a board member of the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute. The Virginia native holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of William & Mary and a master’s degree in environmental education from the New Jersey School of Conservation, Montclair State University. Expert in many areas of life sciences and biological sciences, such as animals, plants, fungi and arthropods, Purdum is passionate about paleontology and cephalopods.

“The strength of the Science Museum lies in its ability to enrich and inspire, and that is exactly what Virginia has done,” said Purdum. “Having a title named after him will remind not only me, but all of us, of the lasting impact that a person can have. “


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