Museum education curator receives prestigious regional award

SOUTHPORT, N.C. — The education curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport has been recognized regionally for her outstanding efforts to help shape the world of museums.

Katy Menne, who has worked at the museum since 2018, is the Southeastern Museums Conference’s 2020 recipient of the Emerging Museum Professionals Award. The award recognizes a museum professional with less than 10 years of experience as a museum staff member who has demonstrated excellence and leadership in museum activities at his or her institution, within the museum profession as a whole, and especially in the southeast region.

“It is an honor to be recognized and share this distinction with the community,” Menne said. “I am truly grateful for the mentors, colleagues, and family that have supported me along the way and look forward to keep pushing forward.”

The awards

Menne received the award on Oct. 20 during the SEMC Annual Meeting, which along with the awards ceremony was held virtually. The other SEMC awardees are Marilyn Laufer, director emerita of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, who received the James R. Short Award for a lifetime of service to the museum profession; Susan Perry, former executive director of the SEMC, received the Outstanding Service to the Museum Profession Award, which recognizes more than 10 years of service in the museum profession; and Brenda Tindal, director of education and engagement at the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, who received the Museum Leadership Award, which recognizes mid-career professionals who have shown significant advancement within the profession. The recognition also includes an honorarium given in the award recipient’s name to the SEMC Endowment and a permanent keepsake, in Menne’s case a handmade pottery vase from Charlotte’s Mint Museum Uptown Store.

“We could not be more proud of Katy for receiving this prestigious award,” Museum Manager Lori Sanderlin said. “It is a wonderful reflection of her hard work and dedication to the museum and to people of all ages and abilities.”

Katy’s background

Originally from San Diego, California, Menne attended the University of South Carolina, earning her B.A. in history and an M.A. in secondary education social studies. Before coming to Southport, Menne worked at Ripley’s Aquarium as an educator, the Kaminski House as volunteer coordinator and visitor services associate and at the Hilton as activities director.

As education curator at the Southport Maritime Museum, Menne leads class trips from preschool to high school, offering a menu of topics for each age group that conform to state education standards, as well as developing classes and outreach programs across counties. Menne also travels to remote schools to develop programs for all ages and abilities and creates homeschool classes, a program that has grown exponentially.

“Her goals have expanded education and made the museum more inclusive,” Sanderlin said, noting Menne’s passion for creating safe spaces for individuals of all abilities within the museum.


Menne spearheaded Sensory Saturdays, a weekly program that welcomes visitors in a calm environment where they can learn. Menne also assisted the museum in becoming the first Certified Autism Center in North Carolina, working diligently to train volunteers and staff for this certification. In her short time at Southport, Katy has greatly expanded the museum’s social media presence with different education programs and increased its accessibility for users with various interests in multiple locations. Besides her work in North Carolina, Katy also has a big picture perspective of the museum world.

Katy is actively involved with SEMC’s Equity and Inclusion Action Team and has moderated several virtual discussions for the Museums Cannot be Silent series. She is an active member of the North Carolina Museums Council serving on the Program Committee and on the DEAI Team for the Environmental Educators of North Carolina. Menne also works tirelessly within her community to network with local North Carolina historic site educators and include other area museums in her programming.

“We will continue to strive harder to be better and Katy is our example,” Sanderlin said. “She is an excellent curator of education and we are lucky to have her on our crew.”


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