by Chase W. Rynd, Executive Director
I have been the Museum’s executive director for over 14 years, and have seen us go through incredible growth and changes. We now welcome almost a half million people through our doors each year. We have developed exhibitions on disaster resilient engineering, dollhouses from London, the design of parking garages, and innovation in green schools. We have hosted some of the biggest names in architecture, interior design, and engineering to present educational programs. The built environment has broadened to encompass topics like technology, sustainability, and social issues. We are now planning the fifth Summer Block Party installation in the Great Hall: what began as an experiment with the BIG Maze is now a foundational piece of our annual programming and a gateway for thousands of visitors to learn more about everything that we do. This program especially was a catalyst for thinking about the future of the Museum as an entryway by which the general public learns more about the concepts of design, engineering, construction, and architecture—and how people figure into that narrative.
So, we thought it would be a good idea to think about our goals as an institution and reevaluate our mission statement. Members of staff met with representatives from our Board of Trustees in several meetings here in D.C. and in New York City to brainstorm. We read other institution’s statements and case studies before making suggestions and massaging the language over the course of several months. We shared drafts and working documents during a Board of Trustees meeting and gathered feedback. This group represented many diverse perspectives—some people with backgrounds in the built environment, some not—and while we had differing opinions on specific wording, we kept coming back to the same concepts, those that reflect how we feel walking into the Museum to work each day, and how it feels to do the work that we do. Our new mission statement reflects this:
The National Building Museum inspires curiosity about the world we design and build.
The former mission statement still holds true: we are committed to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Yet, we feel our new statement truly embodies the universality of the stories we tell, and places the emphasis on people: we design and build the world we live in, and thus have the power to shape our lives, communities, and futures. We hope that every visitor walks into our Great Hall, looks up at our iconic columns, and feels inspired to explore. We hope that by attending our programs, or touring our exhibitions, visitors realize they are a part of the built world and are curious about their place in it long after they leave the Museum.
I am excited about moving the National Building Museum into this next phase and welcome your thoughts. Let us know what you think about the new mission statement; we want the National Building Museum to belong to everyone.