Meta helping the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science expand its reach - Albuquerque Journal

Meta helping the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science expand its reach

Meta
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science entered a five-year partnership with technology company Meta that will help expand the museum’s educational mission and upgrade the exhibits. (Courtesy of the Department of Cultural Affairs)

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science has partnered with technology juggernaut Meta.

The museum’s board of trustees held a special meeting Friday to address the collaboration. The board voted unanimously to approve Meta’s proposal to grant the company the naming rights for the Space Sciences wing of the museum, including the planetarium, for a period of five years.

In return, Meta — which owns Facebook and Instagram — will provide the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science Foundation with a $300,000 grant, which will go toward expanding educational programming. The funds will be recorded in the foundation’s current fiscal year, and the contract and term are now in effect.

“They’ve been great partners, both the Department of Cultural Affairs and the museum team, so we’re really excited,” said David Williams, community development manager at Meta.

The board also approved offering free museum admission for one month per year for all Valencia County residents during the same five-year period.

Los Lunas — the county seat of Valencia County — houses Meta’s data center. The campus currently employs 250 people and the site supports 1,100 construction workers through the building process. After completion, Williams said that Meta anticipates 400 on-site jobs to be filled.

“This is our home,” Williams said. “We really want this community to thrive and see our education partners and small businesses excel.”

The process to strengthen a connection between the museum and Valencia County residents has been in the works since 2021. Meta had partnered with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science for environmental education programs and received great feedback from Valencia County teachers and students.

The company primarily focuses its connection with the county on technology and elevating STEM education, and wants to continue to expand the community’s access to resources.

“We had conversations with the museum staff about how to continue to leverage these types of opportunities,” Williams explained. “This focus of … sponsored classroom supported field trips to the museum for students who especially may not otherwise have an opportunity to go have that immersive experience.”

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science aims to disperse the grant money in order to better the overall museum experience. The museum’s executive director, Anthony Fiorillo, said that “roughly half of it is going to go to execute the education outreach component.”

“There’s somewhere around 53 schools in Valencia County that will be impacted, and we’ll be doing some programming there … and bringing those constituents here,” he said.

Fiorillo added, “Then there’s another part of it that will be dedicated to the actual space sciences area, some upgrades there.”

The funding will help bring more contemporary updates to the exhibits and planetarium programs, including a plan to purchase at least one new show per year for the duration of the five-year agreement. The museum will be able to accommodate future exhibitions better, as well as connect to more research.

With this expansion, the overall experience for visitors and community outreach remain priorities for the museum.

“With Meta, that relationship gives us some resources to start to deliver to another county,” Fiorillo said. “We hope this is just the first step of many.”

Both Meta and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science hope the museum’s reach can keep expanding beyond Bernalillo and Valencia counties.

“One of the things that we’ve also included as part of our partnership are our new tools and virtual reality programs for the museum to be able to get out to some of our more rural communities as part of their mission in education,” Williams said.

“We here have the mindset and appreciation that this museum is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science … we’re here to serve the entire state,” Fiorillo added. “I don’t think we could have asked for a more ideal partner in this. I think Meta and this museum are very well-aligned on this and whatever future developments may be ahead.”

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