A photo shows the exterior of the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is one of only four California institutions selected as finalist for the prestigious IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (March 27, 2024) — The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced today that the California Academy of Sciences is among 30 finalists for the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The Academy is one of four institutions in California to be selected as a finalist for this award.

The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that demonstrate significant impact in their communities. For 30 years, the award has honored institutions that demonstrate excellence in service to their communities.

“The California Academy of Sciences is honored to be named a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service alongside such an esteemed cohort of colleagues. Since our founding 170 years ago, the Academy’s mission has evolved to face the growing biodiversity and climate change crises by regenerating the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration,” said Scott Sampson, PhD, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences. “We have embodied this purpose through a deep commitment to our local Bay Area community in a wide variety of ways, including aiding local and state COVID responses, hosting community science initiatives and bioblitzes, and developing a cradle-to-career education pathway for children and students historically underrepresented in the STEM field. The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ recognition is encouraging to us as we continue this critical work and collaboratively create a natural world that is healthier and more resilient within a generation.”

The Academy remains committed to serving its local and international communities in all that it does, from the institution’s pioneering research to robust educational programs to its world-class museum and aquarium in Golden Gate Park. Notable examples of the Academy commitment include:

  • Increasing museum accessibility and lowering financial barriers through a variety of affordable access programs, such as pay-what-you-can days and free or $3 tickets available through the Discover & Go library program and the Museums for All program. Museums for All is expected to serve almost 50,000 people this fiscal year.
  • Providing high-quality and accessible science education to learners of all ages through The Rock Fund Program and free field trip transportation and admission for all K-5 students in San Francisco. Outside of the museum walls, the extensive distance learning programs developed by Academy educators reached over 515,000 youth nationwide last school year, a 500% increase from pre-pandemic years. Since 2011, Science Action Club has served over 90,000 out-of-school time youth and 8,450 educators in 480 communities across 42 states and three countries. And since its founding in 2017, the Academy's Bayview Science Institute has delivered high quality teacher professional development that has deepened the science literacy of more than 120 preK-8 teachers in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.
  • Leading with evidence-based science and collaboration in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. By leveraging the expertise of evolutionary virologist and Academy Chief of Science Shannon Bennett, PhD, and setting an example of aggressive mitigation measures for other museums and cultural institutions, the Academy collaborated with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to help San Francisco achieve one of the lowest COVID-19 related death tolls among U.S. metropolitan cities.
  • Developing workforce opportunities for people of all abilities. In partnership with The ARC of San Francisco, AccessSFUSD, and City College of San Francisco, the Academy developed a career pathway that helps individuals with developmental disabilities become independent. Since its launch in 2012, the program graduated 80 interns and achieved a 94% placement rate for participants post-internship, with graduates going on to work at other organizations like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Amazon, and SalesForce. Importantly, the Academy developed a Museums4Inclusion toolkit, a helpful resource for any cultural institutions, casework, disability advocates, or human resources professionals seeking to launch a workforce development program benefiting people with developmental disabilities.
  • Harnessing the power of community science to advance conservation management, in particular through programs such as the yearly bioblitz Snapshot Cal Coast. Since its founding in 2016 by Academy Co-Directors of Community Science Rebecca Johnson, PhD, and Alison Young, more than 25,000 observers have made more than 447,000 observations of almost 9000 coastal species. This information helps fill existing data gaps for the long term monitoring of Marine Protected Areas and other coastal areas statewide, and provides actionable information to help guide conservation decisions at the state level.

“The 30 National Medal finalists from across the United States showcase the tremendous abilities of libraries and museums to serve as trusted, dynamic public spaces that meet the needs of their communities,” said IMLS Acting Director Cyndee Landrum. “The Institute of Museum and Library Services is honored to recognize these outstanding institutions. We congratulate them on their collective effort to respond to community needs, preserve diverse history and culture, and create a sense of belonging for all Americans.”

National Medal winners will be announced in late May. Representatives from winning institutions will be honored for their extraordinary contributions during an in-person National Medals Ceremony in Washington, DC this summer.

To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit the IMLS website.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in biodiversity science, environmental learning, and collaborative engagement—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit www.calacademy.org or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. IMLS advances, supports, and empowers America's museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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