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Dec
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Discovery Children’s Museum director wants to enrich the experiences of every child

And just to get away. I love it. We’ve built a world-class, state-of-the-art museum that will rival any children’s museum or science museum in the country. I like my hair to look nice. We have the ability to reach every child, regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Where we came from was a great location, architecturally, in a building with the library. I love the fact the sun is always shining, no matter if it’s cold outside.Read more from Carol Cling at reviewjournal.com. It’s a really nice environment that feels very safe for our visitors. But museum officials figured she could inspire “children who wouldn’t go to a museum to go into science careers, in a fun and innovative way,” White recalls. Why?TW: My favorite exhibit is the “Summit.” That is an exhibit that’s nontraditional for children. It’s 12 levels of amazingness. “And that year turned into almost 25 now.”Nearly 10 have been in Las Vegas — first at the Lied Discovery Museum, now at the expanded Discovery Children’s Museum around the corner from The Smith Center in Symphony Park, where she’s been president and chief executive officer since 2015.We caught up with White — on her 45th birthday — at Discovery, where she looks back on her introduction to museums and ponders her favorite things about her adopted hometown. But we have to make this a bigger part of the fabric of the community. We’ve done a lot, but nowhere near where we can be. — she only expected to stay for a year.After all, she was a premed student at Johnson C. “I had been tutoring in the projects and they offered me the position.”“I decided to work for a year,” she explains. But the professor she’d been assisting with cancer research told her she needed to practice her job interview skills — and sent her to apply for an opening at the local science museum.At the time, White was debating whether to postpone medical school for a year so she could work or do a post-baccalaureate program. I laugh at it all the time. We have The Smith Center, the Lou Ruvo Center, the World Market. We had a rain forest at the museum, so I worked with my co-workers, (telling them) “I’ve got to learn to work with these snakes.”R-J:What’s the biggest difference between Discovery’s current location and its previous home, the Lied Discovery Museum, adjacent to the Las Vegas Library?TW: Oh my gosh, it’s like night and day — and that’s crazy, because it’s only three or four miles. It doesn’t bother me, and it does bother others. … We just got a performing arts center not even five years ago. Symphony Park is an elevated location. It’s not far from the city. This is such a funny story. It’s just me and nature.R-J: What’s your favorite thing about living in Las Vegas?TW: No rain! It was the work I was doing in the community, going into the projects and community centers, exposing those children to hands-on science, to get them to consider careers in science. People feel a lot safer here. Children who wouldn’t go to a museum, children I could tell “You may have a place in science.” I had to open myself up. I had to go to biology. You drive a couple minutes and … OK, peace. I am not a rain girl. It’s so peaceful.   Review-Journal:When, and why, did you first come to Las Vegas? Part of what I did before I left (Discovery Place in Charlotte) was community outreach (including) … some home school sites. I’m a huge ice cream fan, but I can’t have it in the house, because I have no self-controlPersonal motto?Service is the price that we pay for the space that we live in — that’s from Muhammad AliFavorite vacation destination?I am in love with Punta Cana (Dominican Republic); it’s so prettyHobbies?Reading — when I have timeFavorite movie?”The Wizard of Oz.” I like the hope: “You don’t have a heart? On the flip side of things, fundraising (is important) for those that don’t have access. The bright lights of the Strip kind of shine that out. What if they didn’t like chemistry? But we have a community of people who want to raise children in good homes. It was bigger than me. We have visitors we did not have at the other location. You don’t always find a vertical gallery, with full-size exhibits and climbing and crawling — all sized for adults. The culture will allow Las Vegas to grow to where other cities are. We found there, at that particular library, sometimes homeless (people would be there). I really worked at it. I love the strata in the rocks. When I told one of my home school (families) I was moving to Las Vegas, (one) said, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to have to pray for you because you’re going to Sin City.”R-J:What was it about your first museum job that made you say, “I’m home?”TW: It wasn’t the museum environment. They need to come in here and feel welcomed.R-J:What role do museums play in Las Vegas’ cultural landscape?TW: It’s huge for the Las Vegas cultural landscape, because most people think of us as the Strip. We’re on a block. I had to do birds, insects. When Tifferney White accepted her first museum job — at Discovery Place in Charlotte, N.C. It’s so different here. We have that ability — and because we have that ability, we have that ability to be that anchor.R-J:What’s your favorite exhibit at Discovery? In doing all of that, it definitely opened me up as a person, having to learn. I’ve climbed ’em all and I’ve slid down the slides and crawled through the tunnels.R-J: What’s your favorite “Vegas-y” thing to do?TW: I like the fact we have the Strip at our disposal. Were you at all concerned about Las Vegas’ “Sin City” reputation?Tifferney White: I came here in March 2007 to work for the (then) Lied Discovery Museum as director of programs and education. … Our cultural institutions have to become part of the community. Contact her at ccling@reviewjournal.com and follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.GETTING TO KNOW … TIFFERNEY WHITELast performance you attended?The Las Vegas Philharmonic at The Smith CenterBest place to take out-of-town visitors?Hoover Dam or hiking in Red RockFavorite indulgence?Ooh, it has to do with food: ice cream. … And a beautiful building. We are getting those things. What if the only opportunity for this child to touch a boa constrictor — what if they don’t get the opportunity because I’m afraid of snakes? We are growing up and we have cultural institutions that can anchor the city.R-J:What’s in Discovery’s future?TW: Ooh, this is top secret. We have amazing restaurants and shows.R-J: What’s your favorite un-“Vegas-y” thing to do?I love Red Rock. I had to do physics. The biggest thing for us — we just celebrated 25 years. … We have traditional places to go, but people don’t know it. I love the fact there is so much sunshine. Smith University in Charlotte, studying both chemistry and psychology, and planned to become a psychiatrist. We’ll give you one … ” We don’t want to leave that neighborhood behind. But (with) the Nevada State Museum, the Springs Preserve, even the Mob Museum, the Neon Museum — it’s huge because that’s the point.