The Public Engagement Team (PET) is a group of Museum employees who come up with creative answers to the question, “How can we help create a stronger museum?” PET Programs at the Museum are throughout the year and include 6 educational activity days on selected Sundays and 5 adult nights.
PET’s educational activity days are very popular, drawing large numbers of people to the Museum. Events like Expert Day and Fossil Road Show bring our curators and exhibit designers out from behind the scenes to interact with visitors and answer their questions or identify artifacts they have found in their own explorations of the natural world. These days are particularly fun because the sometimes stagnant and contemplative environment of the Museum is filled with the delight of visitors, young and old, seeing the Museum in a whole new way. And the fact that these days often coincide with First Free Sundays means that lower income families and other underrepresented audiences are able to join in on the experience.
People typically go to a natural history museum twice in their lives, once when they are children, and again when they have children. PET’s adult nights attract a diverse mix of visitors who fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Our new signature event, the New Year’s Eve party, for example, recently brought more than 1200 people to the Museum, and the crowd was diverse in every way imaginable. It was truly a representation of the City of Albuquerque; there were people from 18-to-80, people from the Heights to the South Valley, and people in $1000 suits to thrift store bargains and cheap feather boas. They have been drawn to the Museum for adult-themed events where they can have a drink and perhaps dance to some live music in a very unique setting, but as they stroll through the exhibit halls, chat with curators in an informal setting, or even attend a planetarium show, something happens. It is quite common for adult night staff to have visitors tell them, “I forgot how amazing this place was,” or “I’ve never been here before, this is fun!” In other words, the adult nights bring the Museum’s mission of igniting a passion for lifelong learning to a whole new audience.