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Beth Whisman, executive director of the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington, speaks during a 2015 museum reception. She'll leave that role in February to become director of the Children's Discovery Museum in uptown Normal.

FOR THE PANTAGRAPH

NORMAL — Beth Whisman is switching Twin City museums.

Whisman, who for the past 18 months has been executive director of the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington, was named director of the Children's Discovery Museum in uptown Normal on Thursday.

Whisman will leave the history museum Feb. 2 and start her new job Feb. 12.

"(The children's museum) comes from amazing roots and is a jewel in the community," Whisman told The Pantagraph. "It's a great challenge to think, 'How do you grow something that’s already successful and weave it even better into that larger fabric the town is always working on?'”

Whisman will work for the town of Normal, which owns the children's museum. She'll also lead the town's cultural arts department that includes overseeing uptown events and the Normal Theater.

That role was created under Whisman's predecessor, Shelleigh Birlingmair, who left the town staff in October to return to the private sector. City Manager Mark Peterson has filled both roles on an interim basis.

Whisman's salary will be $116,577; Birlingmair made $119,490 in the role. Whisman declined to disclose her pay at the history museum.

Whisman spent three years as the history museum's development director before succeeding former Executive Director Greg Koos. She spent the previous 14 years at Bloomington radio station WJBC.

“I wouldn’t be leaving if it weren’t this type of great opportunity to grow, as a professional and personally, and stay in the community I’ve called home since 1999,” Whisman said. "After a career in broadcast news, I took a chance and joined the museum world and have loved it every day. This is a chance to take what I’ve learned in the last five years and grow it."

Whisman said she'll stay with the history museum for a few months so its board can finish budgeting for the next year, then focus on her successor.

"The transition for this museum will be just as important to me as transitioning into the town of Normal,” she said. "Our staff is so strong, I don’t see it being a major concern. ... Whoever fills my shoes is really going to be happy and lucky.”

Whisman is the latest in a series of leaders for the children's museum since the town controversially fired founder Shari Buckellew in 2012. Sheila Riley served as manager from 2012 to 2015, and Birlingmair stayed a year.

“We are extremely pleased to have Ms. Whisman join the Children’s Discovery Museum and the town of Normal in this leadership role,” said Peterson in a news release.

“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted someone with her experience and community connections, who can not only step right into the management role of the museum, but who can bring her vision and expertise to our entire cultural arts portfolio, including the historic Normal Theater.”

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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