Alan Small: Mayborn Museum mastermind

Mayborn Museum's stem coordinator still channels his childhood wonder of museums into his office space. Photo courtesy of Foster Nicholas

By Foster Nicholas | Reporter

Mayborn Museum’s stem coordinator, Alan Small, is a 42-year-old museum genius but a child at heart, still reeling with joy from the magic of the museum.

Small works in an office on the second floor of the Mayborn, hidden behind a door with a huge Authorized Personnel Only sign. He walks into his normally messy office that is currently as clean as it has ever been, according to Small.

“I think the title should be, ‘guy cleans messy office to play with toys,’” Small said.

He sits down at a desk filled with files and a large HP computer. It’s safe to say his desk is the most normal part of his office. Leaning against the wall behind him is a ruler that is seven feet long that seems to blend in with the rest of his office.

“My mother gave me that ruler,” Small said. “She’s a crafty person and she likes making and inventing new things. So she had that, and she was in the same sort of work as me and she gifted it to me. I need to make a table out of it so that it’s useful and not just a footprint, but it’s kind of a neat deal.”

Next to the ruler against the wall is a larger dresser with eight large drawers full of museum documents and interactive exhibit displays. However, on top of the dresser are open wooden display boxes with bones, artifacts, rocks, old toys and a dinosaur hand puppet that is standing up and looking at the door.

“Some of these things are things that either we use in programs today, or I used in my programs years ago and still love them and still look forward to using again. Others are just little artifacts from programs or rabbit trails that I took on my own time as a hobby,” Small said. “It’s really a fun kind of trophy case in some ways, and also just kind of an entertaining mountain for kids when they come if they want to mess with it. I have a whole lot of space in the shelves dedicated to making or crafting, even modifying stuff. It’s hard to keep it organized, but it’s a lot of fun.”

On a shelf next to Small’s desk there are heart-shaped valentines that were used in an activity he directed earlier in the month. Waco native Stephanie Ann often goes to the museum with her two young children. She attended the Valentine’s Day event with her husband in February.

“It was so much fun. It’s clear [Small] puts a lot of time and effort into this to make it as enjoyable as possible,” Ann said.

She has been to the museum several times since with her children as a treat for good behavior. Most of the time the children play and interact with several exhibits that Small has put hard work into, Ann said.

“My kids love it here, it’s like their second home. I’ve seen Alan walking around here before and he usually plays with the kids, they love it,” Ann said.

Small spends a copious amount of time at the museum, and only half in his office, he said. However, he always brings an excited childlike attitude towards the museum that’s infectious.

Whether he is seen walking down the halls with a smile or a grin, he is there to be the genius behind the children’s enjoyment, and he will never let them down.