Meet Libby Folsom, Spark!Lab docent

By Elizabeth Dowdle

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation wants you to know more about our staff! You may have seen them in action in the lab; now learn how they came to be Smithsonian volunteers. Allow us to introduce you to one of the dynamic members of our Spark!Lab staff: Libby Folsom.

Libby Folsom in white Spark!Lab coat

Q: What are your career and educational backgrounds?
A: I graduated with a degree in Russian and then went on to get my MBA in finance. I have worked for both the government and in the private sector, along with volunteering in my children’s schools and at our church. Needless to say, I’ve always been a busy woman!

Q: What brought you to the Lemelson Center?
A: When I was applying to be a museum docent before the reopening in 2008, I remember reading the various descriptions and one in particular caught my attention. “Hands-on science, working with children,” it read, and I was immediately intrigued. I had plenty of experience working with children of all ages and knew that I could apply that strength here, and as I have no background in science, I jumped at the opportunity to exercise my brain and learn something new.

Q: What do you think makes Spark!Lab special?
A: Spark!Lab offers a one-of-a-kind experience to both children and their parents. We work hard to encourage children’s creativity and interest in the sciences. Spark!Lab is a tremendous resource for parents, especially as their kids are reaching the age of science fairs and other at-home projects. Also, today science education varies greatly from school to school, so not every child receives a quality education in the sciences; some have never even seen an experiment. Here in Spark!Lab we provide programs that are both educational and fun for all ages and all levels of knowledge. The experiments often provoke an eye-popping response (even we are surprised sometimes!), and we all get excited when things go exactly as we planned. In this way we encourage innovation, by conducting first-time experiments and then exploring ways to make it better.

Q: What is one of your favorite memories from Spark!Lab?
A: I’d have to say my fondest memories are focused in the first six months of my working here in Spark!Lab. The museum had just reopened, we were entering the holiday season, and the country was preparing for a historical inauguration. In short, things were crazy! We were overwhelmed with visitors, but we managed to create a worth-while experience for all who came through. It was a time of great energy and enthusiasm, and we made it through. I was inspired by the knowledge that if we could handle those few months, we could handle anything, and that’s a great feeling.

Elizabeth Dowdle is an intern in the Office of Public Affairs at the National Museum of American History.

Editor's note: Spark!Lab relies on volunteers to stay open and running smoothly. Please e-mail us at for more information about how you can become a volunteer. If you're interested in volunteering elsewhere in the museum, please check out our Volunteer Opportunities. Maybe our next volunteer profile post will be about you!