From April 2022
As a young adult, linda silver wanted to become a professor. “I studied classics, and I spent my senior year doing archaeological work in Greece,” she recalls of her undergrad experience at the University of California, Los Angeles. But when she returned from her travels, a job at the Natural History Museum Los Angeles County beckoned, rerouting her career plan. “They were starting a school outreach program that used archaeology as a way of getting kids interested in science,” she explains.
Now, Silver is guiding one of the centerpieces of natural science education in North Texas—the Perot Museum of Nature and Science—through its 10th year in business, after steering it through the pandemic.
Silver came to Dallas by way of Cleveland and the United Arab Emirates after 13 years with her Los Angeles employer. Her culminating job in California was vice president over education and guest relations. While in that role, she oversaw visitor education and experience at five L.A. locales, including the La Brea Tar Pits, earned an MBA at Pepperdine University, and completed her doctorate at the University of Southern California.
At 34, she was recruited to her first chief executive post. Silver led the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, where she lived for six years before finishing her final two years of leadership remotely from the Middle East. “I was recruited to help the government of Abu Dhabi develop their informal science education platform,” Silver says.
The mother of two elementary school-aged children, who moved her family across the world with her, helped the Emiratis design the city’s first science museum, an outreach program for schools, a science festival, and more—all while periodically commuting back to Ohio. “My intent was to go over and do that temporarily and come back to Cleveland,” she says. “But the Middle East was just too glamorous, and I stayed.”
Seven years later, Silver got a call from the Perot and accepted an offer to be its leader in 2017. Since then, she has led the museum through extensive renovations of its human and engineering halls, created an open paleontology lab, helped it shift its materials to take a bilingual approach. She also oversaw development of a state-of-the-art warehouse for the Perot’s collections that are not on display but still need to be carefully preserved.
The museum’s board started a pandemic fund after Ebola broke out in Dallas in 2014.
After COVID took hold, the museum was shut down for six months but was well-capitalized; its board had started a pandemic fund after Ebola broke out in Dallas in 2014. “We were probably in a better position going into [the pandemic] than many of our peer organizations,” Silver says.
Now, the Perot has recouped nearly 70 percent of its pre-pandemic attendance, and Silver is on a mission to deepen the organization’s impact. She wants to grow the reach of the museum’s digital STEM education assets, augment its outdoor experiences, explore gamification opportunities, and expand into new North Texas neighborhoods.
“Digital is what’s going to allow us to become not just this great regional asset, but a regional asset with a growing statewide—if not a national—reputation for delivering great STEM content and education,” she says.
Celebrating in Style
2022 is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science’s 10th year in business, and CEO Linda Silver is spearheading a year-long celebration, culminating in an event chaired by Dirk and Jessica Nowitzki. “They are truly parents who use this space,” Silver says. In the months leading up to the big gala, the museum is unveiling several upgrades and new exhibits. In March, it added seven new celebrity athletes to its speed wall, which allows children to race various animals and athletes. It’s also pairing up on programs with Klyde Warren Park, which is marking its first-decade milestone, too. “The last one will be in December when we are projecting to have our 10-millionth visitor,” Silver says.