Henry Schulson to retire as head of Chattanooga's Creative Discovery Museum

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 3/20/17. Henry Schulson, executive director for Creative Discovery Museum, speaks about a new ÒEPB Smart GridÓ exhibit as Alex Pepin and Axton Agar play assist while at the Creative Discovery Museum on Monday, March 20, 2017. The EPB Smart Grid technology simulator, programmed by local software developer L2D, highlights how EPBÕs Smart Grid responds to power outages during inclement weather and allows game users to work in conjunction with EPBÕs Smart Grid technology to restore power to the residents of Chattanooga.
Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 3/20/17. Henry Schulson, executive director for Creative Discovery Museum, speaks about a new ÒEPB Smart GridÓ exhibit as Alex Pepin and Axton Agar play assist while at the Creative Discovery Museum on Monday, March 20, 2017. The EPB Smart Grid technology simulator, programmed by local software developer L2D, highlights how EPBÕs Smart Grid responds to power outages during inclement weather and allows game users to work in conjunction with EPBÕs Smart Grid technology to restore power to the residents of Chattanooga.

After 26 years as head of the Creative Discovery Museum, Henry Schulson will retire this fall.

The 68-year-old president of the downtown attraction and learning center came to Chattanooga in 1997, two years after the museum opened. Schulson, who has led the museum through a number of expansions and changes, said the nonprofit organization has begun looking for his successor.

"It has been so exciting to see the growth and development of both the museum and Chattanooga over the last 26 years," Schulson said in a statement. "The museum has become a vital educational resource for schools and an institution loved and embraced by children and families throughout our community."

The Creative Discovery Museum has served more than 5.5 million visitors since opening in 1995 and posted record attendance in the first quarter of 2023. With an annual budget of $3.6 million, the museum has a staff of about 75 employees and is completing a $12 million upgrade and expansion this year.

(GALLERY: Little FarmHouse at Creative Discovery Museum)

Under Schulson's direction, the museum received 10 national grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and helped secure a national leadership grant for the Hamilton County school district's Museum Magnet program. Working with the city, the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Tennessee Aquarium on the 21st Century Waterfront Trust Plan, the children's museum opened RiverPlay in 2002 and the Rooftop Fun Factory in 2005.

Schulson also helped develop a partnership with Oak Ridge National Lab to make the museum a national hub for education programs on biofuels and alternative energy sources. Under his direction, the museum also introduced free Family Nights, Sensory Nights and the first Museums for All program in Tennessee, providing thousands of families with free or discounted admission to the museum.

Most recently, Schulson spearheaded the Ignite Discovery capital campaign, which helped fund museum renovations and the planned opening in September of the gallery, UnEarthed.

(READ MORE: Visitors top 5 million at Creative Discovery Museum)

"Henry has been an incredible leader and a gift to this institution and community," Christie Kizer Burbank, the museum's board chairwoman, said in a statement.

Schulson previously served as director of the Dallas Museum of History for nine years and worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Schulson said he and his family have made Chattanooga their home.

"The Creative Discovery Museum has really been perfectly positioned to be a part of Chattanooga's downtown revitalization and has proven to be a great resource for this community," Schulson said in a telephone interview. "But above all, I have valued working with an outstanding staff who bring the joy of learning to children day after day."

A selection committee made up of current and former museum board members has launched a search for a new director working with the ThinkingAhead Executive Search, a Nashville-based firm, to lead the recruiting.

(READ MORE: Creative Discovery Museum seeks $10 million overhaul as it celebrates 25 years in Chattanooga)

"The selection committee is focused on finding the best leader for the next chapter of the museum," said a statement issued by Kay Linder, a 25-year veteran of executive search, who is in charge of the project.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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