The University of Minnesota has picked Denise Young, a North Carolina educator, to head the Bell Museum + Planetarium starting September 12. Young has been director of education and planning for the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2002.
At Morehead, she oversees a $2.43 million budget and a staff of 14, with 80 part time staff who do educational programs for elementary students to adults. As founder of the science center's education department, she monitored budgets, coordinated schedules, led planning processes, helped develop new digital technology programs and wrote grants.
An exhibition of Carolina archaeological artifacts that she developed toured for three years to nine North Carolina museums. As an educator she was also responsible for vastly expanding the center's science summer camp attendance from 12 to 2,000 over four years. The center's general attendance also nearly doubled to 150,000 during her 14 year tenure.
In Minnesota, Young will oversee a 144 year old museum that is in transition from its present quarters on the University's Minneapolis campus into a new structure under construction on the St. Paul campus near the Minnesota State Fair grounds. In 2011 the Bell merged with the Minnesota Planetarium Society that was previously located in the central library in downtown Minneapolis.
The University envisions the new $79.2 million complex as a the northern gateway to the St. Paul campus. Located at the intersection of Larpenteur Av. and Cleveland, the new Bell will have a 120-seat domed planetarium/theater, expanded galleries and interactive exhibitions.Nine of the museum's much loved traditional dioramas, in which taxidermied birds and animals are displayed in naturalistic settings, will be moved to the new building and augmented with current information about the animals' environments and habitats. Backdrops for those dioramas were painted by Minnesota-born Frances Lee Jaques, one of the 20th century's most accomplished wildlife artists.
Bell officials are still raising money for the project. As of this spring, they had raised $64.2 million for basic construction and landscaping. The Minnesota legislature provided $51.5 million in state bonding, the University contributed $6.7 million and private sources came up with $6 million.
Officials are hoping to raise an additional $15 million for program support, endowment, technology upgrades and finishing an additional 1,500 square feet of temporary exhibition galleries that will otherwise be left as raw space. The extra money will also enable them to build a rooftop telescope-observation platform, a solar station, and a Minnesota-geology plaza.
Young earned a 2012 doctorate in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill focusing on curriculum and instruction. She received a M.S.A. in school administration/educational leadership (2003) and a B.A. in early childhood education (1993) from the same institution.