It’s a Friday afternoon at the Louisiana Children’s Museum and kids are playing drums in the Jammin’ House. Other kids are imagining themselves as chefs and restaurateurs at the Creole Kitchen exhibit. Smaller children are listening as books are read to them by their parents.
The Louisiana Children’s Museum has gone through a lot of changes over the last four years. It moved from its original location on Julia Street to an 8.5-acre piece of land overlooking a City Park lagoon.
The new building includes an edible garden, literacy center and multiple “impact areas” that focus on different stages of a child’s development and even a floating classroom.
In 2022, longtime museum CEO Julia Bland retired. After a nationwide search for a replacement, the museum announced the hiring of Tifferney White, its first Black woman CEO.
A native of New Jersey, White attended Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she received her bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and psychology. She later received an executive Master of Business Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
In 2007, White worked as the director of programs and education at the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. While there she oversaw the museum’s $50 million development of its new 58,000-square-foot complex. In 2015, White served as interim CEO of the museum.
In 2017, White returned to Charlotte and became the chief learning officer at Discovery Place, a museum network that includes two museums, a nature center and a science center.
On March 1, White became the CEO of the LCM. She sat down with Verite to discuss her journey to LCM, her plans for the museum and why it is important for families to be aware of its resources.
Verite: What made you decide to take the position of CEO of the LCM?
White: I had a colleague that thought that this was a good opportunity. She is the CEO of a museum in Washington state. And she said, “I want to throw your name in the hat for this one, I think you would be great.” And so she did that. I ended up talking to the recruiters and interacting with the board. At some point, I realized that this is a great place where I can come in and use all the experience that I’ve had over the course of my career.
I get the opportunity of looking at, “How can we really look at the impact that the Children’s Museum has on our community and take this to the next level?” The opportunity to be able to do that work is very attractive to me.
Verite: What was your first reaction when you visited the Louisiana Children’s Museum?
White: A lot of museums just get exhibits, they don’t think about where they are or about being relevant to their community in that way through their exhibitions. And this project was really about being intentional and representing New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana. And so, that’s what I thought when I came in. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this place is beautiful.” And then secondly, it is definitely about where you are and celebrating where we are.
Verite: What do you feel are the barriers that prevent families and children from experiencing the museum?
White: I think it’s historical. When museums were created a long time ago, they weren’t built for people like us. They were built for the elite, and those who were educated. I’m a first-generation college graduate. I didn’t come from that kind of background. Yeah, you might have gone a couple of times on field trips, but it was not some place that we went on a weekend to visit.
Now that the climate has changed and there’s enough of us working in museums, the value is there to want the whole community to have that experience. Now we’re doing more to reach out into the community and say, “You’re welcome, come in.”
I feel like that is my life’s work. I’m in service to making sure that everyone has that experience and everyone that we can get to have that experience, has that experience.
Verite: The museum has community outreach events for Caribbean Heritage Month, Juneteenth, Pride Month and other events. Why do you think it’s important for children to be aware of these events?
White: I feel like they’re important to be aware of because we don’t live in this world by ourselves. We are intersecting with different people all the time.
Juneteenth, Caribbean Heritage Month, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Heritage Month and Pride Month allow us to get to know and understand people from different backgrounds. And I feel like if we understand them, if we can learn more about them and build knowledge, then there’s a value that comes with that.
I think that’s how people build a bridge so that they can have better relationships with each other. We can appreciate and value each other and get away from all this other craziness that’s going on, where we just don’t like somebody just because. We’re all people, and we’re all different. When we can honor those differences and backgrounds, I think we’re a better society as a result.
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