The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced today that The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is among 30 finalists for the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
The Maritime Aquarium is the only aquarium in the U.S. selected as a finalist this year, and one of only two institutions – along with the Ferguson Library in Stamford – named in Connecticut.
The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that demonstrate significant impact in their communities. For more than 25 years, the award has honored institutions that demonstrate excellence in service to their communities. Six National Medal winners will be announced in May.
IMLS Director Crosby Kemper said the 2021 awards have added significance this year.
“The revival and reinstitution of the National Medals by IMLS is another signal of recovery and renewal in the nation’s very challenging — but very hopeful — times,” Kemper said. “We are celebrating not only the ongoing excellence of the best of our museums and libraries, but their extraordinary efforts through the pandemic, the recession, the racial justice protests, and national divisions to serve, heal, and bring together our communities. Congratulations to all 30 finalists.”
Jason Patlis, president and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium, said being named as a finalist for the IMLS National Medal is a tremendous honor.
“This is a gratifying affirmation of the uniquely important role that The Maritime Aquarium plays in Norwalk and the larger community,” Patlis said “It’s not just the reach we have within the community, with nearly 500,000 guests and 80,000 students during a normal year, but it also is the impact the Aquarium has on our community, especially those in need through our scholarships and outreach. Our immersive exhibits, extensive educational programs and leading conservation initiatives connect our community – including those who do not have the means on their own – to Long Island Sound, its wildlife and habitats, and to the maritime heritage and culture that define our community.
“To be recognized this year in particular, in the midst of a pandemic that challenged our very survival and required us to completely rethink how we fulfil our mission, is a testament to the resolve and resilience of the team here at the Aquarium,” Patlis added.
To celebrate The Maritime Aquarium being named as a finalist, IMLS is encouraging the Aquarium’s community members to share stories, memories, pictures, and videos on social media as part of the Share Your Story campaign, using the #IMLSmedals hashtag, and engage with IMLS on Facebook and Twitter. The Maritime Aquarium will be the featured Finalist on Tues., April 27. For more information, please visit the IMLS website.
Representatives from the six winning institutions will be honored for their extraordinary contributions during a virtual National Medal Ceremony this summer.
Recent winners in Connecticut include the New Haven Free Public Library in 2019, the Otis Library in Norwich in 2016 and Mystic Aquarium in 2014.
The Maritime Aquarium was nominated for the 2021 award by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, and its application included letters of support from Himes; U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal; U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy; Tina Henckel, director of STEM education for the Norwalk Public Schools; and Tammy Papa, director of Youth Services and the Lighthouse Program for youths in Bridgeport.
To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit the IMLS website.