A Visit to Gateway to NOAA


I had been meaning to visit Gateway to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for a while. Small, nearby, and open only during normal business hours, it seemed like the perfect lunch break activity on a teleworking day.

Never did I imagine that I would be visiting at a time when all federal government hiring was frozen, let alone the other eerie reports I am hearing. (The following list is not meant to be definitive reporting of events, as there is a lot of uncertainty as to exactly what is going on, and sifting through all the news and unofficial reports is beyond the scope of this post. But it’s hard not to be chilled by stories of all Environmental Protection Agency grants being frozen; all EPA studies being subject to review by the presidential administration going forward; agencies and national parks receiving orders to cease all communications with the public, including posting social media updates; and intimations that federal workers themselves are being censored in their work and non-work communications.)

Gateway to NOAA museum in Silver Spring, Maryland

Gateway to NOAA museum in Silver Spring, Maryland

Both the official NOAA Twitter account (@NOAA) and its rogue version (@altNOAA) have been tweeting this week. @altNOAA is one of many unofficial Twitter accounts that sprang up in the last few days so that federal employee scientists could have an anonymous, unofficial vehicle for communicating with the public in the actual or possible case that the official account is censored.

With all the current fogginess around the science-based government agencies, it felt especially important to pay a visit to Gateway to NOAA today during my lunch break, so I finally went inside the building that I had walked past countless times before.

At the museum, one of the first interactive screens allows the visitor to explore the variety of jobs that make up the agency. I read about an educator at a marine sanctuary, who says that career opportunities at NOAA are “as deep as the ocean itself.” (Make NOAA hire again…)

The small exhibit space includes information on the science behind weather prediction and ocean protection, a timeline highlighting the 200-some year history of NOAA, and a running theme of focusing on the future in matters like climate change and the depletion of fish populations. There is also art: photography inside the single room, and Ray Kaskey’s The Hand sculpture outside the building.

The Hand by Ray Kaskey, outside NOAA building in Silver Spring, MD

The Hand by Ray Kaskey, outside NOAA building in Silver Spring, MD

This little, free admission museum is one example of how NOAA disseminates information to the public – an example I am lucky to live near. Their many marine sanctuaries serve as additional informal learning sites. But not everyone can visit these places in person, and NOAA’s other avenues of education and outreach – including its online resources for virtual audiences – are a crucial chunk of its work.

I’ll end this post by quoting words of inspiration from one of @altNOAA’s tweets: “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Resist.”

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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