Bay Area museums vie for nation’s best

Two Bay Area museums are finalists for the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries, officials from the museums said.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has named The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and Oakland’s Chabot Space & Science Center as finalists for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The award recognizes U.S. museums and libraries for their contributions to their communities.

Officials with the Chabot Space & Science Center said the honor recognizes the center’s programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Those programs include the high school Galaxy Explorers and middle school Champions of Science programs, free public nighttime telescope viewings and free field trips for students from the Oakland schools, among others.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement:

“I would like to congratulate the Chabot Space & Science Center on its nomination. … I am especially proud of Chabot’s targeted programs for underserved students and their work to encourage more young women and people of color to pursue careers in STEM fields.”

The Tech’s CEO and president Tim Ritchie said in a statement his staff is honored their dedication to helping people use technology to solve the world’s problems has received national attention:

“Every day we’re developing new ways to be of use to the Bay Area and beyond by inspiring the innovator in everyone to tackle issues like building earthquake safe structures and cyber security.”

Officials with The Tech said it is recognized internationally for showcasing the innovation driving Silicon Valley and they said a trip to The Tech is a rite of passage for most grade-school students in the Bay Area.

Many of those students attend low-income schools, officials with The Tech said. The 30 finalists this year also include The Los Angeles Public Library, the only other museum or library in California to receive the honor.

Officials with the Institute of Museum and Library Services will name the winner this spring and representatives from the winning institution will go to Washington, D.C., to receive the honor.