Museum Innovation Fund

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University recently launched the Museum Innovation Fund to provide seed funding to Drexel faculty and students for projects that promote conception and rapid prototyping of innovative approaches to museum learning and engagement.

Through this initiative, the Academy hopes to establish an open innovation culture — one that promotes prototyping, nurtures fresh thinking, and adopts a creative planning cycle. The Academy will provide seed grants of $5,000 to select projects that imaginatively apply the arts, science and engineering in ways that re-envision museum learning and engagement.

Intended to take place over the course of a typical 10-week quarter, both faculty and students will participate in designing and testing each project in partnership with the Academy. The first round of seed grants will support three interdisciplinary projects submitted by faculty of Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, selected from a pool of outstanding proposals. They are:

Dioramas of the Future: The Augmented Museum Project

A multidisciplinary team from the Departments of Design and Digital Media will come together to develop a mobile interactive virtual reality media system to augment Academy visitor interactions. The proposed system will bring together interpretive text, sounds and animated visual displays to create engaging experiences and bring dioramas to life.

The project includes two interdisciplinary classes: a fall session centered around developing the concept, investigating design systems, and interpreting museum content; and a winter session during which undergraduate and graduate students will develop and test functional prototypes.

Faculty grantees:

Raja Schaar, Assistant Professor, Design

Nick Jushchyshyn, Assistant Professor, Digital Media

Emil Polyak, Assistant Professor, Digital Media

Troy Finamore, Associate Teaching Professor, Digital Media

Erik Sundquist, Associate Teaching Professor, Design

Exploring Global Climate Change and Advocacy through Film

Aligning with the Academy and Drexel’s efforts to address the urgent global crisis of climate change, Ben Kalina, of Westphal’s Department of Cinema & Television, and Elizabeth Watson, PhD, of the College of Arts & Sciences and Academy senior wetlands scientist, will join forces on this project. In a fall course, students will view and analyze pre-selected films designed to engage, inform and advocate for taking action to address the climate crisis.

Collaborating with faculty and the Academy Marketing team, the class will develop audience survey tools to understand how approaches to filmmaking affect audience perceptions on climate change issues. The course will culminate in the curation and organization of a one-day film festival for the public focused on climate change solutions, held at the Academy in November.

Faculty grantees:

Ben Kalina, Assistant Professor, Cinema & Television

Elizabeth Watson, PhD, Associate Professor, Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Sciences (CoAS) and Senior Scientist and Wetlands Section Leader, Academy of Natural Sciences

Creative Engagement and Interpretation of Research

Faculty from the Department of Art & Art History will work with the Kyle Luckenbill, the Academy’s Ichthyology curatorial assistant/imaging specialist, to integrate Academy research into visual studies curriculum. Two visual studies courses — Sculpture I and Tablet Drawing — will combine visits to the Academy, first-person observation, 3D scans and CT data from specimens as a resource for course curriculum. At the conclusion of the quarter, projects produced in both classes will be displayed in a pop-up public exhibition at the Academy.

Faculty grantees:

Lewis Colburn, Associate Professor, Art & Art History

Mark Stockton, Associate Teaching Professor, Art & Art History

As the three funded projects kick off this fall, the Academy is gearing up for the second round of Museum Innovation Fund grants, for which applications will open in October 2021. For more information on the Museum Innovation Fund, contact

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