Polly McKenna-Cress

Polly McKenna-Cress

With more than 25 years of experience in the field of museum planning, management, development and design, Ms. McKenna-Cress has been dedicated to furthering the museum field and has managed, developed and designed 20+ exhibitions locally and nationally. She recently co-authored a book with Janet A Kamien, Creating Exhibitions: Collaboration in the Planning, Development and Design of Innovative Experiences published by John Wiley and Sons in October 2013, and launched it in conjunction with an International Symposium she developed as a catalyst for transforming the museum field. Presenters and attendees ranged from CEOs, VPs, and Managers to teachers and graduate students from different Museum Studies programs around the country. She maintains a strong professional advisory and consultancy practice with many organizations, as well as the inspiration and direction she provides emerging professionals in the academic realm.

Ms. McKenna-Cress earned her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Industrial Design and her MFA in Museum Exhibition Planning + Design from The University of the Arts. She started her professional career as a staff designer for Miles Fridberg Molinaroli, Inc. in Washington, DC. She worked on many exhibition projects there including the Peale Museum in Baltimore, Seeds of Change for the NMNH and the creation of the Smithsonian Institution’s Postal Museum. During graduate school and several years afterward she worked as project manager and exhibit designer at CLRdesign, Inc. an architectural, landscape architecture and interpretive exhibits firm focusing on zoos and botanic gardens. In 1998, she was hired as Director of Exhibits and Design at The Franklin Institute Science Museum, managing a department of 18 professionals and directing, designing and managing construction of eight new 5,000-6,000 sq ft multi-million dollar permanent exhibitions. In November 2001, she co-founded the branding, communication design, and exhibition firm Alusiv, Inc.
In January 2003, Ms. McKenna-Cress accepted the position as Director of the Museum Exhibition Planning + Design (MEPD) Program as well as Chair of the Museum Studies department at the University of the Arts. She has grown the department during her tenure, and in 2011 was awarded the UArts Mary Louise Beitzel Award for Distinguished Teaching. In addition to her faculty appointment, Ms. McKenna-Cress continues her professional development with Alusiv, Inc.

Ms. McKenna-Cress has been appointed to a number of national and local boards and committees. Currently serving as 1st Vice Chair on the American Association of Museum’s Committee on Museum Professional Training (COMPT) since 2011 and has been Secretary since 2007. She has served on a number of advisory boards including Eastern State Penitentiary, National Association of Museum Exhibitors (NAME), DesignPhiladelphia, the Mutter Museum and Library, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, as well as the Elfreth’s Alley Association’s Board of Directors.

She is a frequent presenter for local and national conferences and has contributed articles for the associated journals including AAM, NAME, ASTC, MAAM and SEDG.
She has served as a grant reviewer for multiple foundations including the National Science Foundation. She was awarded as co-Principal Investigator a National Science Foundation Implementation grant. She has also served as a juror for the AAM’s Media and Technology “MUSE” Committee Awards for three years running.

Ms. McKenna-Cress has taught at the Philadelphia University, University of the Arts’ Industrial Design Department, Moore College of Art & Design’s Interior Design Department, lectured for the University of Leister’s Museum Studies Department, University of Penn’s Archeology Department and Temple University’s Public History program as well as professional development classes for the Pew Charitable Trust’s Heritage Philadelphia Programs.

Classes Taught and Co-taught
• 1st Semester Exhibition Studio (Co-taught)
• 2nd Semester Exhibition Studio: Graduate Museum Project Collaborative (Co-taught)
• Thesis Development: Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
• Thesis: Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
• Museum Internship: MEPD
• Development, Fundraising & Grantsmenship (Co-taught)