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Feb 04

Children’s Discovery Museum’s Shelly Hanover named Illinois Museum Professional of the Year

Posted on February 4, 2021 at 4:28 PM by Wendy Long

News Release

Children’s Discovery Museum’s Shelly Hanover named Illinois Museum Professional of the Year

Normal, IL
– Feb. 4, 2021 – The longest serving member of the Children’s Discovery Museum (CDM) staff has been named the 2020 Illinois Association of Museum’s (IAM) Professional of the Year. The IAM made the announcement during its annual conference Thursday evening as museums from across the state participated in the virtual event.

Shelly Hanover has been with the Children’s Discovery Museum since its first year of operation in 1994. She is a consistent and inspiring force within this organization,” said Beth Whisman, Executive Director of the Children’s Discovery Museum.

“This past year, CDM staff and families benefited from Shelly’s creative and innovative style of trouble-shooting and her eye for safety. As we look to the future for new solutions and playful ideas, Shelly and our entire team are working hard to reopen and serve the Museum’s mission in the post-COVID era.”

Hanover was recognized for her efforts to establish a Midwest Museum Roundtable for children’s museums and science centers that would come to serve as a vital connection during the industry’s shared struggles and closures of 2020. The group worked together to establish best practices and operating procedures to present to the Restore Illinois Committee. Member museums also hosted a virtual Noon Year’s Eve Dance Party Countdown serving more than 10,000 individuals across Illinois and Indiana.

Hanover has served many years on the planning committee for the Association of Children’s Museums annual national conference “InterActivity.” She championed for rural-urban collaborations. She built relationships with the local agriculture community, offering museum outreach at the McLean County Fair for 25 years and helping establish an exchange program that unites youth from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis with farming communities in McLean County.

“This is an amazing accomplishment, but not surprising given the exceptional quality of Town staff. From the very beginning, Shelly has worked quietly and passionately to make the CDM the best possible experience for all,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos. “This year, the museum served 40,000 people despite its closure. We are proud of the impact employees like Shelly have on residents in Normal, schools and surrounding communities.”

Education program and COVID-19 response also honored

The Museum was recognized with a 2020 Special IAM Award of Superior Achievement for COVID 19 Response. Staff diligently worked to develop STEAM-based activities to supplement e-learning, provide take-home play to connect families outside of their new virtual world and build new partnerships to support both the Museum and local businesses. From handing out 10,000 activity kits, to re-imagined programs, such as Zoom with Santa and Day of Play Your Way, to new community partnerships, like Craft Beer Bingo and Reindeer Riddles, the CDM confirmed that nothing can stop the power of play.


The CDM education staff was awarded the state’s top honor for Best Practices in Educational Programs for its Innovation Institute. The program is funded by a grant from State Farm. Innovation Institute increases youth exposure to out-of-school, informal learning experiences focused on STEAM concepts. Created in partnership with Illinois State University and UNITY Community Center, the program pairs ISU Science Education students with teens from UNITY to create STEAM-based learning opportunities to present to UNITY’s kindergarten through fifth grade students.

“This continuum of learning and mentorship has been very successful over the last eight years,” said Rachel Carpenter, Education Manager. “The real success has been watching youth participants grow into the teen program where they then graduate and take those skills into their communities as leaders.”

The Children’s Discovery Museum is currently closed to general admission play under the Restore Illinois Phase 4 guidelines. The Museum is offering small group opportunities for playful learning including in-person classes and camps. Virtual activities are also still available. To learn more about current offerings, visit


About the Children’s Discovery Museum  The mission of the Children’s Discovery Museum is to inspire the love of learning through the power of play. The Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation exists to support the mission and vision of the Museum through raising funds and awareness in the community. To learn more, visit, Like us on Facebook, follow @DiscoveryMuseum on Twitter, and follow @cdmnormal on Instagram.   #CDMPowerofPlay