Focus on Museum Education

I grew up in central Ohio with a family that always encouraged me to seek out new knowledge. From an early age, I loved history and science. (Bill Nye, the Science Guy, remains, to this day, an idol of mine.) I very quickly decided that archaeology was the career for me. I graduated from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, with a double major in archaeology and geology. Then I realized I wanted to do more than “dig stuff up;” I wanted to follow the “stuff” into museums. And so, I began my quest for a career in museum education.

I attended IUPUI and attained my master’s degree in museum studies with focuses on education and Native American studies. Education has taken the forefront of my interests and my career path. Anyone who knows me will tell you; I love sharing knowledge. I’ll offer up any tiny tidbit, piece of trivia, or article I come across because I relish letting others in on the new-found information.

Educating at the track

Education manager, Ana Wallace, teaches a group of young girls about STEAM in racing.
Education manager, Ana Wallace, teaches a group of young girls about STEAM in racing.

My path to the Speedway Museum had a few fun stops, including three years at the Indiana State Police Museum as their education coordinator. When the opportunity to work at one of Indiana’s most celebrated heritage sites came up, I could not pass on the chance to apply. I will admit that I do not have any racing background. However, my thirst for knowledge and nerd-level research skills have served me well so far.

I will always be excited to share opportunities for education with any visitor. However, I love those that come to the Museum with no prior knowledge of racing or the 500. Being able to share with visitors why the Museum and track are important is always a thrill. For example, I will forever be excited to see students’ reactions when they see a car on the track for the first time.

Racing History, Science Roots

The IMS Museum Workbook available in the Museum and online.
The IMS Museum Workbook, made possible through a grant by Indiana Humanities in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

One of my primary goals at the Museum is to help people better understand the basics of the sport and how racing fits into our everyday lives. As our education programming and materials continue to develop, I will be adding to our newly-launched education page on the Museum’s website. You will find resources to enhance your visit or make sheltering in place a little less dull.

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) is a big theme for us, as so many aspects of racing are rooted in the sciences. I have been working hard to incorporate STEAM concepts into our programs. For example, I developed lesson plans that highlight the Offenhauser engine and its history. They are designed to help students better understand how a combustion engine works, but also provide a glimpse into how invention and innovation take center stage at the track.

There are so many stories and so much information to share. The possibilities are endless! I look forward to sharing more with you about the Indy 500 and the Museum’s rich history in Indiana.