Amy developed a love for history, art and the natural world at an early age through annual family trips to museums, historic sites, and national parks. Inspired by a family full of educators, she began her career as a classroom teacher in the US and abroad. Before joining the South Carolina State Museum, Amy spent over twenty years at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in a variety of leadership roles advancing education, public programs, digital engagement, exhibition interpretive planning, visitor services, and strategic initiatives, including co-leading the Museum’s 2020-2030 strategic planning process. Amy was the former chair of the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Accreditation Commission and was recently a member of AAM’s Excellence in DEAI Task Force. She has also held leadership roles in AAM’s Education Professional Committee (EdCom), the Museum Education Roundtable, and the National Council for History Education. Amy was the founding director of two arts nonprofits - The London International Gallery of Children’s Art and Children’s’ International Art Outreach (CIAO). She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Education from the College of William and Mary, a MAT in Museum Education from the George Washington University, and is a graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Institute and the Smithsonian Leadership Development Program.
Amy grew to love South Carolina through childhood visits to her Great Aunt and Uncle’s shrimping business in St. Helena, SC. She currently lives in Columbia, SC with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog and cat.
Senior Certified Human Resources Professional with over 20 years of experience developing and executing HR strategies, programs and services to support business partners and to assist with attracting, developing, and retaining a highly engaged, inclusive, and diverse workforce while minimizing risk exposure. University of South Carolina and Villanova University graduate.
Areas of expertise include:
Employee Relations • Strategic Staffing • Diversity/Inclusion • HR/EEO Compliance • Organizational Development/Change • Policies/Procedures and Forms Development • Compensation • Environment/Perception Surveys• HR Audits/Needs Assessments • Training and Development • Affirmative Action Planning
Tom’s interest in museums began as young student on a field trip, when he saw a presenter in a Faraday cage throw massive sparks from the giant Van de Graaff generator at the Museum of Science Boston. As Director of Audience Engagement, he remembers that moment and recognizes the museum’s responsibility to find ways to represent and excite our many audiences at the South Carolina State Museum. Tom received a master’s in environmental education before starting his museum career at Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington, NC. He joined the South Carolina State Museum in 2000 and has held many positions in both the education and collections departments. Tom was fortunate to serve on the team that developed the 2014 expansion that includes the museum’s planetarium, observatory, 4D theater, and telescope gallery. He loves the state’s natural spaces, especially the mountains, where he enjoys camping and hiking. If he’s not at work or on a trail, Tom can regularly be found volunteering with his church music program.
Karen Hall, Foundation Director, joined the SCSM Foundation in 2014 as Donor Relations Manager and stepped into her current role as Foundation Director in 2019. She is responsible for leading the cultivation of funding from private foundations, corporate partners and government grant makers to raise funds for operating support, exhibitions and capital projects. A South Carolina native, she holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of South Carolina.
Paul Matheny received his Master of Arts in Arts Administration (2011) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (1996) degrees from Winthrop University. In 1997 he accepted the position of Assistant Curator of Art at the Museum of York County until 2001, when he accepted the position of Curator of Art at the South Carolina State Museum. He served as the Chief Curator of Art for the S.C. State Museum from 2002-2014, Chief Curator of Collections from 2014-2015 and currently serves as the Chief Curator, Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs. During his time at the S.C. State Museum, he has curated more than 30 major exhibitions focusing on the work artists and craftspeople from South Carolina.
Laura Ybarra-Kane has been a passionate educator in the Midlands for nearly 20 years. Laura joined the museum as a volunteer in 2004 while she was a student at the University of South Carolina majoring in Anthropology with a focus in education. Laura started her journey at the State Museum as a docent- giving tours, helping with special events and volunteering behind-the-scenes with registration. Shortly after, she was promoted to an Outreach Coordinator position which took education programs across the state. Laura left the museum to gain experience teaching in K-12 classrooms, afterschool programs and early childhood education with a focus on inquiry-rich, constructivist-based learning pedagogies. After spending several years at other museums and educational institutions, she returned to the South Carolina State Museum in 2014 and is so happy to “be home again.” Laura’s favorite part about SCSM is working with families, schools and teachers. Seeing students grow and change year after year with camp, helping new teachers find their footing and sharing resources with them, and helping schools reach their goals is what it’s all about for her. “I hope everyone we reach experiences the wonder and excitement of learning!”
Meeghan Kane oversees public programming at the museum. In her role, she develops and coordinates events, supports and fosters community partnerships with fellow cultural institutions and organizations, and assists in the museum’s ongoing efforts to Reimagine the Experience. Her work intersects with all the museum’s departments, so she has learned a lot since she began in May 2022.
Prior to joining the museum team, Kane taught history at Benedict College for over a decade, where she specialized in African American history, 20th century cultural history, and the history of the American South. She moved to Columbia, South Carolina, from Tampa, Florida, in 2006 to join USC’s graduate program in history after completing her B.A. and M.A. at the University of South Florida.
These days, if she’s not at the museum, you’ll likely find her and partner watching their teenage daughter play volleyball at Dreher or in regional tournaments for SC Midlands Volleyball Club. But her family also enjoys camping in state parks, nice meals in local restaurants, day trips to the mountains, and adventures back home to Florida.
Serving as the museum’s Education Coordinator, Katherine Kerr works closely with the Audience Engagement and Group Visits departments to facilitate programs for field trips for K-12 schools across South Carolina. She also develops content for the museum’s in-house STEAM programs, as well as virtual and outreach efforts. Katherine strives to prioritize the children’s learning and enjoyment, while providing ease of access and support for teachers. She also serves as one of the museum’s camp administrators.
Prior to joining SCSM, Katherine served as an elementary education teacher in Richland 2 and the Public Charter School District of South Carolina. She has taught every grade from 2-6 and prides herself on her ability to reach a diverse population of students. Katherine graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2016 with her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She went on to earn her Master of Education in Trauma-Informed Education from Columbia College in 2022. She joined the SCSM team in January 2023 and looks forward to more opportunities to have a positive impact on children across our state.
Liz joined the State Museum in 2014 as part of the Windows to New Worlds Project, which saw the grand opening of the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Planetarium. As Planetarium Manager, she is responsible for all aspects of theater maintenance and operation, which includes acquiring, creating, delivering both live and pre-recorded content and training presenters.
She is also heavily involved in astronomy education beyond the dome, developing and teaching hands-on activities for camps and producing bi-weekly virtual sky tours for social media. Liz holds a B.S. and M.S. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and an M.S. in Astronomy from New Mexico State University (NMSU). She is working on completing her PhD in Astronomy from NMSU, using cosmological simulations to study how feedback processes affect the formation and evolution of galaxies at high redshift.
She is the Past-President of the Southeastern Planetarium Association (SEPA), having served as President from 2021-2022 and is also a member of the International Planetarium Society (IPS). In addition to astronomy, Liz is passionate about yoga, parrots and pianos.
Matthew Whitehouse, DMA, is the Observatory Manager at South Carolina State Museum. At SCSM, he overseas observatory operations, serves as lead observatory educator and facilitates use of the observatory across museum departments. Matthew also leads a statewide distance learning program and assists with presenting planetarium shows. His favorite part of the job is the accessibility of the Boeing Observatory. There are very few observatories where visitors can simply walk in, talk with astronomers and experience a historic telescope in action!
Matthew joined the SCSM team in 2013, a year before the opening of the museum’s Windows to New Worlds expansion. Originally from Columbia, he returned to South Carolina after completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance at The University of Arizona. While in Arizona, Matthew was heavily involved in astronomy outreach, including an astronomy camp for teens, partnerships with K-12 teachers and public programs at Kitt Peak National Observatory. It was in Arizona that Matthew discovered his passion for astronomy education.
As an organist, Matthew enjoys combining music and astronomy in his original compositions and improvisations. He has given presentations linking music and astronomy both locally and internationally. In addition to his work at SCSM, Matthew serves as a supply organist for churches across the Midlands.
Jessica has a lifelong passion for history and museums, which is evident by the fact she makes every attempt to visit a historical site or museum in every city she visits. Prior to joining the South Carolina State Museum, her professional background includes roles as an instructional designer, museum educator, historic home interpreter and high school history teacher. As the volunteer manager, she is committed to cultivating a strong sense of camaraderie within our museum’s volunteer program and creating an inclusive and collaborative environment. Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in social science from Robert Morris University and a master’s degree in history from the College of Charleston.
Outside of work, Jessica finds joy in various activities, such as trips to the beach and movie theater, as well reading. Additionally, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors with hikes alongside her husband, John, and their beloved dog, Autumn.
Robyn Adams has been the Registrar at the State Museum since 2015. In her role, she is responsible for the care, documentation and preservation of the objects and specimens in the collections and the care of the museum. She also oversees the digitization, inventory and database management of the collections, a multi-year project and team generously funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Prior to coming to SCSM she worked at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia. Robyn holds a BA in History from Clemson University (Go Tigers!) and an MA in Public History from North Carolina State University.
A lifelong lover of history, people, travel and all the random trivia she will never use, she enjoys getting to work with all areas of the collection from Art to Natural History. She also finds joy in getting to handle every object that comes into the museum and can tell you where something is even if she doesn't know exactly what it is.
Hope Bruce, originally from Ohio, joined SCSM in February 2023. She is responsible for the management of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant-funded inventory project. The project includes working with a talented part-time team to inventory, enter data, digitize and evaluate the Science and Technology Collection and the exhibition galleries. Previously, she worked in Collections at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens of Akron Ohio, the Massillon Museum, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, Italy as well as working with other NE Ohio museums for specific events and projects. Hope received a BA in Museum Studies and History from Walsh University. She is excited to learn more about South Carolina and explore and experience new things in the South.
Dave Cicimurri, the Curator of Natural History, joined the South Carolina State Museum in 2011. He is responsible for acquiring new specimens for the collection, as well as preparing them (i.e., cleaning and repairing), identifying them, and curating them (i.e., entering information about the specimen into an electronic database). Dave specializes in fossil chondrichthyans (i.e., sharks, rays, ratfish) from the Devonian Period (375 million years old) to Pleistocene Epoch (10,000 years old) and works to interpret the environments the animals lived in. Dave also studies the general fossil record of South Carolina and, because most of the known species were widely distributed, is interested in placing these local occurrences into regional (i.e., South Carolina species also occurring elsewhere in the southeastern USA) and global contexts (i.e., South Carolina species also occurring in Morocco, Brazil, and England).
Dr. Ramon Jackson completed the doctoral program in History at the University of South Carolina in 2019. He served as co-historian of Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters, a landmark public history initiative that commemorated South Carolina’s Civil Rights Movement and its dramatic impact on our nation’s broader freedom struggle. Prior to joining the South Carolina State Museum in May 2023, Dr. Jackson worked as the African American Heritage Coordinator at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, where he assisted the agency and the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission (SCAAHC) with a host of public programs, exhibits, and historic preservation initiatives. He also was an Assistant Professor of History at Newberry College, where he taught survey courses in 20th century American History and special topics courses on Black student activism, South Carolina civil rights, and African American sport history.
Allison Cicero Moore has been widely involved with Columbia’s visual art community over the years. Prior to joining the team at the South Carolina State Museum, she taught art history, art education, studio art classes at various higher education institutions in the area, and managed McMaster Gallery at USC and Goodall Gallery at Columbia College. She also served as the Executive Director of 701 Center for Contemporary Art and was Artist-in-Residence at Richland Library Main.
Moore holds an MA in Art Education from Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), an MA in Art with a concentration in Metals/Jewelry from Eastern Illinois University, and a BFA in Crafts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Previously a “weatherman,” David joined the State Museum in 2021 after working in broadcast television for over half a decade. As the museum’s public relations manager, he is responsible for managing and creating content for the State Museum’s social media platforms (which sometimes involves dressing up as a shark), coordinating media appearances, updating proofreading museum copy, and overseeing other projects related to communication and marketing.
Although an Arkansas-native, David has spent a fair portion of his life in the Carolinas- earning a B.S. in Meteorology from North Carolina State University in 2016 and, most recently, working as a meteorologist/science content producer at a TV station in Charleston, S.C. While in this role, David covered many severe weather events, including hurricanes, and created Emmy-award winning content related to weather and the environment.
As the Graphic Design Manager, Anna Turner oversees the visual brand and style for the South Carolina State Museum. In this role Anna is the lead on design and production for general museum branding and promotions, a variety of exhibitions, special events and more. A member of the museum team since July 2022, Anna’s favorite project is the quarterly Images membership magazine.
Tonia Johnson Alston has been the Chief of Public Safety at the South Carolina State Museum since 2001. In her role she is responsible for the daily coordination of the security of the museum’s collections and exhibitions. This includes managing the museum’s security systems, problems, overseeing the administrative duties of the department, monitoring the Communications Operations Control Center, CCTV Monitors, maintain a relationship with other law enforcement agencies and communicating building and fire problems to General Services.
Chief Johnson Alston is a proud Veteran of the United States Navy. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Minor in Social Work from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Arts in Human Resources Development. She enjoys traveling, shopping and attending her sorority meetings.
Five and a half years ago in November of 2017, Jeremy was hired on as the “exhibits electrician.” Since then, he has learned many trades and skills such as carpentry, welding, acrylic fabrications and many more. He says he’s “always eager to learn and find new ways to challenge myself.”
He is most proud of his work with the recent Apollo 16 exhibition, the new Gibbs reader rail, the SCSM graffiti mural, the tripod model of the telescope legs, all the new display cases, the Savannah River Site Museum fabrication and, most recently, a replica guitar gifted to Drink Small.
In his free time, he often works on beautifying his home and backyard. He also enjoys cruising up and down the river with his wife and their dog Hank. A huge fan of the outdoors, he enjoys hiking, swimming, gardening, playing pickleball and riding his bicycle.
“I absolutely love my job and look forward to furthering my career as a museum exhibition design and fabrication specialist.”
Dorothy comes to the museum as Senior Retail Manager and buyer after 35 years in retails private sector. Dorothy developed her love of retail after graduating from the University of South Carolina. Her favorite part of her job is finding unique items for the gift shop that customers will treasure and remind them of their wonderful museum experience
Brittney Himsl brings over 10 years of event experience, ranging from intimate weddings to large scale festivals. Brittney is part of the museums event team focusing on private rentals and the use of the museum spaces for weddings, meetings, corporate functions and other private events.
As a graduate from Georgia Southern University, Brittney’s career started with weddings in Savannah, Georgia and then moved up to the DC area where she planned events within the Military community. When the opportunity to move back down south presented itself, she couldn’t turn it down. Since moving to South Carolina, she has made many connections within Columbia’s event community through her work with local restaurants, country clubs and festivals. Brittney’s knowledge and connections help make her clients dream events a reality.
In her rare spare time Brittney enjoys reading, traveling and playing fetch with her golden retriever. Her favorite part of the museum is the Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy located on the 4th floor outside the Observatory.
Kaylie joined the State Museum as a member of the Exhibits team in 2018. With a degree in both History and Theater, Kaylie felt right at home building and creating exhibits which bring history to life for the public. Some of her favorite projects include the Museum of Oz, Hall of Heroes, Let’s Make Some Noise, 9/11 Display and Apollo. She says, “It is a complex but exhilarating experience from the brainstorming to the final completed product, and always extremely rewarding to see the finished exhibition.” When not at the museum she spends her time with her kids, playing outside or going on adventures which often include going to the museum to see Finn the megalodon and driving the lunar rover (which her children refer to as their “moon car”.) She says the museum is a fun and exciting place to work, create, and learn for her and her family.
Rudine Alston Hopkins has diligently served for more than 21 years at the South Carolina State Museum. In her role as a Public Safety Officer, she is responsible for providing emergency assistance and guarding exhibits from incidents and threats.
After completing her high school education at Lower Richland High School, she enrolled at Midlands Technical College. Ms. Hopkins spent most of her time working for Fort Jackson Post Exchange before beginning her position at the South Carolina State Museum on March 1, 2002.
Outside of work, she likes to travel, meet new people, watch sports, and spend time with many of her nieces and nephews.
As a member of the South Carolina State Museum’s Public Safety Department, Ronald monitors the museum’s exhibitions and galleries and provides emergency assistance to guests when needed. Born in Washington D.C., he previously worked with the South Carolina Department of Corrections as a security officer. Outside of work, Ronald enjoys skiing, riding motorcycles and photography.
Tyler joined the South Carolina State Museum exhibition team in 2018. He says, “I thought it was pretty cool to work at a place that I have been visiting since I was six years old.”
Before coming to the State Museum, he worked as a carpenter and locksmith at The University of South Carolina. Working as a carpenter at the museum has allowed him to be more creative while applying the trade skills he’s developed over the years when designing and fabricating display cases and other 3/D exhibit elements for the State Museum and many other state agencies, including the South Carolina State House, Historic Columbia, SC Military Museum, DNR, Savanah River Sire Museum, SC River Alliance and many more.
A recent project that he’s very proud of is the guitar replica the exhibitions team fabricated for local Blues legend, “Drink Small.” In his down time away from the museum, he enjoys working in his yard, fishing, going to concerts, hanging out with his dogs, and travelling with his wife. “I also have a constant list of projects around the house that keep me busy when I’m not at work.”
Tamara Washington joined the South Carolina State Museum in 2023 as the Finance Manager with over 20 years of experience in both government and private finance. Tamara earned degrees in Business Finance and Human Resource Management and is a proud Veteran. What she loves most about working at the museum is the “first class” view of her colleagues working in their passions to inspire and give back to museum members and visitors. In her spare time, Tamara enjoys spending time with family and friends while exploring the world.