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The Woman Behind the Kidzeum: Leah Wilson

Manu Mamillapalli and Leah Wilson
Chloe Bellot
NPR Illinois
Manu interviews Leah Wilson

Hello, I’m Manu Mamillapalli for NPR Illinois Podcamp 

You might have heard of the Kidzeum in downtown Springfield, but you might not know what goes on behind the scenes of the whole operation. I had a chance to interview Leah Wilson, the Executive Director of the Kidzeum.


Leah originally went to college to study geography, but after working at several different places, she heard about an interesting job.

“I found about this amazing job at Kidzeum in Springfield, and then I moved here in January of 2018.”

Leah was the first employee at the Kidzeum, and her favorite part about working there is and always has been….

“The kids!!! Uh the kids are definitely the best part  I was just working on the floor today and there were a couple of little boys who came in the front door and they were just so excited to be there!”

“ And their mouths were open and they were gasping and jumping up and down and were so excited to be at Kidzeum.and that is what makes it a joy to come to work every day.”

Her love for kids was fostered by her experience babysitting when she was young. She also taught different school levels. 

“When I heard Kidzeum was opening up that just was a wonderful opportunity for me to continue the work I have been doing over the years”

She believes the presence of a children’s museum is important for a  community.

“I love museums because I think that they are these really unique places for kids to build on some of the things they learned in school but  do it in a really fun way !”

“You can learn a lot , its a social experience and what i think is really good for is children get to direct their own learning experience in a museum in a way that they don’t always get to do at school.”

Leah Wilson also gets to direct her own experience as the executive director of the museum.

“ I have the joy of putting together a team of really talented people who are all experts in their own areas and are very good at what they do.and i rely a lot on them to help create our system that helps us run the museum.”

The system Leah is talking about includes marketing, budgetary concerns, keeping the facility clean, making sure everything is in working order, and raising money as a non-profit organization. 

“I then help facilitate all of those people in creating the best possible visitor experience at Kidzeum.”

And a part of that goal is looking towards the future.

“We are going to have a new  exhibit in the fall on zombies  it's going to be very exciting. And we will try  to change out exhibits in our temporary exhibit gallery twice a year. So we’ll alwayshave something new. We also have a very cool hotel that hasn’t been touched since the twenties really, 1920. So there is an early idea to maybe create a museum based preschool which will be fun and unique for Springfield.”

For Leah, that’s the ultimate goal giving children a place, close to home, in which they can explore and expand their imaginations.

For NPR Illinois PodCamp,  I’m Manu Mamillapalli.

Manu Mamillapalli and Leah Wilson
Credit Chloe Bellot / NPR Illinois
NPR Illinois
Manu Mamillapalli and Leah Wilson

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