About Kathleen McLean

Kathleen McLean is principal of Independent Exhibitions, a museum consulting firm specializing in exhibition development, design, programming, and strategic planning. From January 1994 through September 2004 she was the Director of the Center for Public Exhibition and Public Programs at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, where she directed the major revisioning and strategic planning project, “Refocusing on the Floor.” Other projects she directed at the Exploratorium include the national award-winning traveling exhibition, Memory; a visitor/storytelling research project called Finding Significance; and Seeing, a 10,000 square-foot permanent art and science exhibit installation. 

Since 1974, McLean has designed and developed a wide range of exhibitions for public audiences in museums of history, art, and science, as well as interdisciplinary and children’s museums. Many of the exhibitions she has developed focus on social issues and public response. From 1986 to 1990, McLean established and led the first exhibitions department at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, New York.

In 2006, Kathleen McLean was selected for the American Association of Museums’ Centennial Honor Role, as one of 100 museum professionals to have made a significant contribution to American museums over the last 100 years.

McLean is co-author of the IMLS-funded book, The Convivial Museum; co-editor of the IMLS-funded book, Visitor Voices in Museum Exhibitions; co-editor of the NSF-funded book, Are We There Yet? Conversations about Best Practices in Science Exhibition Development; and author of Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions. For 10 years she was the exhibition review editor of Curator: The Museum Journal, and has widely published and spoken on museum design, informal learning, and exhibitions. She has served on panels and committees of the American Association of Museums, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Academies of Science, and the National Science Foundation, among others.

(Photo by Abigail Huller, courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California)