She will remain at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a program manager to oversee the completion of the Bradbury’s upcoming nuclear weapons exhibit. Her successor will be announced in the coming weeks. As the Bradbury’s longest-serving director and beloved member of the Los Alamos community, Deck’s departure is a significant milestone in the museum’s history.
From natural history to national security
Deck became the museum’s director in 2007. “I tell people, ‘I wasn’t born in New Mexico but I got here as soon as I could,’” jokes Deck. A native of Buffalo, New York, Deck received her undergraduate degree in biology and geology at the University of Rochester and went on to graduate school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she studied geology and paleontology. Her scientific background paved the way to a career at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. After 20 years at the Smithsonian, she became the director of the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Ultimately, she found her way to Los Alamos, trading in natural history for national security science. “I loved interpreting dinosaurs, don’t get me wrong,” says Deck. “But working every day to help people understand the work and importance of the Lab is so, so satisfying.”
“Linda has led the Bradbury and provided great leadership in sharing the story of Los Alamos National Laboratory with thousands of visitors each year,” says Kathy Keith, who leads the Lab’s Community Partnerships Office. “During her tenure, she has worked with hundreds of scientists and contributors at the Lab to translate the important work they do to the public. She also established the nonprofit support organization, the Bradbury Science Museum Association (BSMA), which furthers STEM education and been a leader in the Los Alamos Community.”
The BSMA runs the museum’s Gadgets gift shop, with proceeds supporting necessities for STEM outreach, such as bus scholarships and supplies for the Bradbury’s Science on Wheels program. Jennifer Cline, the BSMA’s president, says, “Linda had a fantastic vision for bringing the Bradbury Science Museum to the next level, and the BSMA was an integral part of that vision. She leaves a tremendous legacy of STEM education and outreach.” Board member Ryn Hermann adds, “It's been a pleasure working with Linda. Our working relationship developed into a great friendship. Her hard work during her time at the Bradbury have made it — and Los Alamos — a destination.”
Deck’s commitment to placing STEM at the forefront of the Lab’s community engagement has been a focal point of her career at the Bradbury. She champions science and innovation with audiences of all ages, such as at the monthly Periodic Table program. This casual program with a featured Labbie is ostensibly a form of lifelong learning but has also become a regular social outing for local science enthusiasts. While geared towards adults, parents frequently arrive with future Labbies in tow — and everyone has a good time.
One of Deck’s greatest outreach achievements has been her success with Challenge Tomorrow. This traveling STEM experience brings volunteer Labbies into local communities to share fun, informal explorations in science and the diverse aspects of the Lab’s research. Laboratory Staff Director Frances Chadwick says, “By developing outreach programs like Challenge Tomorrow, Linda has been instrumental in promoting the Laboratory’s work in Northern New Mexico. She has always represented the Laboratory as a force for good, and her impact has been significant.”
Deck’s impact is not strictly local. Her work touches global audiences, too. Visitors from around the world come to the Bradbury, and they get to experience firsthand Deck’s craft with exhibit development. “If you looked back at the museum’s galleries in 2007 when Linda started and compared them to today, you would see that every exhibit here, with a few exceptions, has been changed or updated,” explains Omar Juveland, the Bradbury’s exhibit designer. “Each exhibit project takes about a year to develop, write, design, produce and install. She has been a part of every exhibit project and not only with exhibit development — but also finding the people, organizations and funding to get these all produced.” It’s a tremendous amount of work.
For many visitors, Deck’s exhibits will be their only direct interaction with the Laboratory. Conveying the science correctly is paramount — but so is making sure visitors remain engaged. This is true in her ongoing development of the upcoming nuclear weapons exhibit, to be named “Mission: Nuclear Deterrence.” “Its dynamic nature will share with visitors this complex subject in easy-to-manage bites and involving interactives,” Deck says of the project. “It will be an experience rather than a lesson.” She expects to launch the exhibit later this year.
Once Deck cuts the ceremonial ribbon for the nuclear weapons exhibit, her career at the Lab will be a wrap. “I love being involved in this community and my many, many friends. I look forward to staying in Los Alamos and continuing to be active and contribute to the community.” In true form, she’ll continue to be socially involved and remain a local leader. “(I will) begin my position as artistic director of the Los Alamos Concert Association, travel with friends and family, get on with some home renovations and enjoy making my garden a haven for pollinators!” Our loss is the bees’ gain.
All of us at the Bradbury Science Museum are grateful for Linda Deck’s vision, energy and leadership as director. We look forward celebrating her career and new endeavors.
As Deck would say: “Onward!”