Water, STEM, inclusion: Museum exhibits to embrace Siskiyou County diversity

Jessica Skropanic
Mount Shasta Herald
Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum Board members John McChesney, Ted Marconi, Griff Bloodhart, Jim McChesney, John Fryer, Linda Siegel, and David Tucker welcomed Rosemary Romero as their new executive director in summer 2021.

Biologist Rosemary Romero grew up in a home steeped in arts and humanities.

Her father Ed Keelan taught music and history at Dunsmuir High School. Her mother Rosemary Romero-Keelan taught history and Spanish at Anderson Union High School in Shasta County.

Now the Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum director will share her love for learning with museum goers by updating exhibits and creating new ones, all with an eye toward celebrating diversity and inclusion.

The Mount Shasta High School graduate, who returned to the North State with a Ph.D. in integrative biology from University of California. Berkeley, took the Sisson Museum’s directorship last summer after seeing what the museum was doing with STEM education.

The museum’s science festival, held annually with College of the Siskiyous, got her excited about working at Sisson, Romero said. So did the museum’s efforts to integrate interactive displays throughout the museum, allowing guests to “have fun while learning.”

Now Romero wants to update Sisson’s exhibits and create new ones. Her goals include:

  • Develop youth programs aligned with state and national school curriculum standards, including STEM topics.
  • Extend the museum's hours.
  • Ensure the museum serves diverse communities within Siskiyou County through exhibits, programs and events — all while keeping permanent exhibits updated and relevant.

Because the museum has cultural and historical focuses as well as science, Romero wants to create new exhibits that show off Siskiyou County’s ethnically and racially diverse history, she said. “We're always looking for new perspectives on the stories we've told from the Mount Shasta area and ways to celebrate this special place."

Making that happen requires continued involvement from Siskiyou County educators, volunteers and partner organizations, Romero said. “We’ve had a strong showing of support from the communities we serve, even (during the pandemic).”

Jewelry and stone ware is on display at Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum Store.

It will also take funding.

In-person fundraising events are on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, Romero said, so she and her staff pin hopes on Giving Tuesday donations on Nov. 30 and grant applications.

Plans for 2022 include resuming in-person events at Sisson, possibly collaborating with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to host new shows. Those shows are in the early planning stages between the CDFW and the museum’s board, so no specifics are available at this time, Romero said.

For now, Romero hopes to attract more visitors by extending open hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays, now through Dec. 20. After that, the museum will close for an unstated period while it updates its exhibits, possibly reopening in March.

Current exhibits include “Water: Shasta’s Liquid Gold,” which traces the importance of watersheds near Mount Shasta for people and wildlife up until the early 1900s.

Next year, we’re picking up where we left off, documenting water’s importance and water rights issues from the early 1900s to today, Romero said. "Our hope is to incorporate personal storytelling.”

For more information or to volunteer at the museum call 530-926-5508 or go to www.mtshastamuseum.com.

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.