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Exit Interview: Sam Moore is leaving Pittsburgh and space tech for his love of history

The Moonshot Museum's ED is leaving the city to become the managing director of public history for the Missouri Historical Society. Here's what he'll miss most.

Sam Moore. (Courtesy photo)
In the New Year, Sam Moore is jetting out of Pittsburgh.

The executive director of the Moonshot Museum — the North Side-based center launched this fall in partnership with space tech company Astrobotic — will become the managing director of public history for the Missouri Historical Society. He leaves after two years in the ED position and four years in the city.

So, what does the Gateway to the West have that the Steel City doesn’t? For starters, Moore told, it’s where Moore and his husband are from. Secondly, he’s a historian, despite having developed a fondness for space due to immersion in STEM education and his days spent watching Astrobotic engineers construct a spacecraft through a glass window connecting the museum and HQ. Moore said he now considers himself a “space evangelist,” but he just couldn’t pass up the chance to work at a history museum.

“Pittsburgh and Moonshot Museum in particular made it a very difficult decision,” Moore said. “We’ve seen really strong community support. And so though it pains me to step away so soon after opening, I’m really, really confident in the team at Moonshot Museum and the infrastructure we have set up, and I know it’s going to be successful moving forward.”

A lunar structure at the entrance of the Moonshot Museum. (Photo by Atiya Irvin-Mitchell)

Despite space tech and history seeming galaxies apart (though if you think about it, what is space but a collection of really, really old stuff?), Moore feels that what he’s learned at the helm of the Moonshot Museum will serve him well moving forward. Whether you’re explaining space technology or outlining a historical event, all museums revolve around storytelling.

“As a history museum professional, you’re always storytelling,” said Moore who previously occupied director- and management-level positions at the likes of the Senator John Heinz History Center, National Aviary and, yes, the Missouri Historical Society. “It’s a return home to public history, to my field, but I think I’m going back home to history with some really valuable lessons learned from the science museum community I’ve been fortunate to be a part of for the past couple of years.”

Since Moore stepped into the executive director role in 2021, he’s had the opportunity to see the museum through its earliest stages and hurdles. He expressed gratitude to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its $500,000 grant in 2020, plus another $300,000 grant this past July. Now, as he prepares to leave, he feels pride in the knowledge that the museum is in good financial shape; total, the museum has raised $3 million.

Moore added that after spending so much time in the museum as it was still under construction, he’s been heartened by the positive reception his soon-to-be-former North Side neighbors have given it.

One moment in particular that stands out to Moore was witnessing the enthusiasm shown during the preview the museum gave to the public prior to its official opening on Oct. 15.

“It was really gratifying for the team at Moonshot Museum because we’d spent a lot of the past few years thinking about how we don’t just build a flashy whiz-bang thing that happens to be in Pittsburgh,” Moore said. “We want to build a museum that’s impactful and is based in the community that we’re in. On that day, North Siders … were jazzed about the role that Pittsburgh is playing in the future of space exploration.”

A rocket in the Moonshot Museum. (Photo by Atiya Irvin-Mitchell)

Although the change on his LinkedIn is largely due to a desire to return to his hometown, Moore explained that after so much time living and working in Pittsburgh, both he and his husband consider the City of Bridges their second hometown and plan to visit as often as they can.

What will he miss? The visitors, being able to see innovation happen in real time at work, and of course, the people.

As Moore prepares for his departure, the museum is searching for a new executive director. What advice does Moore have for his successor? Firstly, that they’ve inherited an “incredible” team and secondly they should consider the city and its people to be a resource.

“Embrace that team and continue to support them doing incredible work that they’re doing every day,” Moore said. “The other thing I would say is especially if this person comes from outside of Pittsburgh it is to get to know this really special city and this really special tech community. In two years in this role, I’ve never made a phone call to a potential partner or been looking for a little help or support on something and heard ‘no’ on the other end of the phone. Whether it’s a company or a fellow nonprofit, people are ready and willing to help.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Astrobotic
Series: Exit Interview

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