Tellus' Jose Santamaria: Making science come to life
by By Matt Shinall
Apr 28, 2012 | 1227 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Matt Shinall

From a humble mineral museum birthed of local mining operations, the Weinman Mineral Museum laid the groundwork for what is now Tellus Science Museum.

The man behind the dinosaurs, space craft, minerals and historic vehicles is Jose Santamaria. As the museum's executive director, Santamaria oversees the operations of the 120,000 square foot, Smithsonian-affiliated facility.

With a heart for science since childhood, he came to lead the Bartow County museum through a circuitous path in which he gained experience and education in art before returning to the subject that always captured his intrigue.

Name: Jose Santamaria

Occupation/Organization: Executive Director, Tellus Science Museum

Education: Bachelors of Visual Arts, Georgia State University

Family: I've been married to my wife Maia for nearly 30 years. No kids, two dogs, many cats. Maia is Executive Director for disABILITY LINK NW in Rome and works to help disabled people become more independent. I grew up in Atlanta and the rest of my family still lives in the metro area. I have two brothers, one sister, five nephews, one grand nephew, and assorted spouses and girlfriends. My father lives in Roswell near one of my brothers.

City of Residence: Rome

Age: 56

How did you get into the field of science?

A. I have always loved science. As a kid, I studied minerals, followed the space program, and have always been curious about the natural world. I majored in art in college, but once I became a professional artist, my work evolved into science subjects. In the meantime, I returned to my love for minerals and fossils and became active in some of the Atlanta mineral societies. I started to use my skills to produce earth science graphics, became involved with the Weinman Mineral Museum, and eventually was hired as its director.

What is your favorite part of your job?

A. Working with a great staff; seeing our visitors have meaningful experiences at the museum; and pulling off some great events and exhibits.

What is the significance of Tellus in our community?

A. I think many people here already know this, but Tellus is a great place to take the family, go as a couple, or take visiting guests and you can have an engaging experience looking at and talking to each other about our exhibits. I don't think you can find such better exhibits anywhere in the Southeast south of the Smithsonian or east of Houston: the best mineral and fossil exhibits. Displays of vintage cars, aircraft and rockets. A kid-friendly, hands-on science gallery. Eight outstanding planetarium shows a day. People from Atlanta come to Tellus. The economic impact has been over $20 million at the very minimum. And it's at our very backyard!

What would you consider your greatest personal or professional achievement?

A. Personal: maintaining great relations with my family and long time friends and adding to this expanding circle.

Professional: Tellus.

Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?

A. Not a fair question, because I love to meet friends at Tellus and show them around. But Bartow has great food, and in no particular culinary order, I love Wesman's, the Appalachian Grill and Scott's Barbecue.

What is the best advice you have received?

A. Two things: trust your gut and do the right thing; and, once you do that, trust and empower your staff to do the right thing.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

A. thoughtful, creative, conscientious.

If you were not in this line of work, what would you like to do?

A. Selling art and running an oyster joint somewhere on the Gulf Coast.