Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Receives Nation's Highest Museum Honor

Ten Institutions Receive Nation’s Highest
Honor for Museum and Library Service


Journalist Cokie Roberts and IMLS Director Susan Hildreth present Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden representatives with the IMLS National Medal.
Left to right: Garden President & CEO Frank Robinson, Cokie Roberts, Garden Community Member Chris Corsello, Garden Board President Bill King, IMLS Director Susan Hildreth.
Photo courtesy of IMLS.

Dec. 6, 2011

Ten Institutions Receive Nation’s Highest Honor for Museum and Library Service

Washington, DC — IMLS Director Susan Hildreth on Monday presented the National Medal for Museum and Library Service to five libraries and five museums at a ceremony on Capitol Hill. Journalist and author Cokie Roberts gave the keynote address at the ceremony. The National Medal is the highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community

These inspiring institutions make it possible for individuals from diverse backgrounds to follow their passions and make meaningful contributions to their communities," said Hildreth."Our winners are preserving endangered manuscripts from around the world, providing internet access to the residents of a small remote town, training African immigrants to be child care providers while at the same time helping to preserve their native cultures, helping teens and young adults discover career paths, and much more. The recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service have wonderful stories to tell that demonstrate how libraries and museums build strong communities and transform lives."

At the ceremony, Hildreth also read the following excerpt of a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama to the medal winners:

"Museums and libraries inspire us to stretch our imaginations, and play an important role in exposing Americans of all ages and backgrounds to fresh ideas. They teach our children new skills and ways of thinking, and even help to promote lifelong wellness. From big cities to small towns, this year’s medal winners are making tremendous contributions to our communities through innovative programming and a commitment to excellence. You are helping to lift up all those who visit your institutions, and I hope you take pride in all you have accomplished."

In her address, Cokie Roberts talked of the economic difficulties faced by libraries and museums, but added, "I am so impressed with the work that’s being done, with the imagination that is coming to the fore, as people find ways to deal with the difficulties that they’re facing and understand that one of the ways is to be more and more and more engaged in the community and have the community more and more and more engaged in the institutions."

In addition to the medal, the winners also receive a $10,000 award and a visit from StoryCorps; Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps, also spoke at the ceremony. The celebration was sponsored in part by History. History also produced a video about the medal winners that was played during the ceremony. A broadcast-quality ceremony video file (MOV format) is available for download here.

To learn more about the 2011 winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service view the brochure or visit

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Community Member: Chris Corsello

Chris Corsello is an 19 year-old individual with autism who has been volunteering at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for nearly two years with his aide Lisa Watts. Chris has worked in the Rose Garden, helps with the Garden’s semi-annual Plant Sales and was instrumental in the construction of Diamonds in the Rough, a towering stick sculpture designed by world-famous artist Patrick Dougherty and built on-site at the Garden in May of 2011.

Chris’ aide, Lisa Watts, has witnessed a transformation in the time she and Chris have been volunteering at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. In her own words, she provides background and describes the Garden’s impact on Chris, as well as his impact on the Garden. She ends with words from Chris.

Lisa Watts: “Autism has had a profound effect on Chris’ ability to learn and live like other individuals his age. Early on, Chris had great difficulty understanding and using language to convey wants/needs and likes/dislikes. Chris’ difficulty with language caused him great frustration and resulted in some challenging behaviors. In order to learn new skills, each task had to be broken down into individual parts and taught one at a time to learn the larger skill. Chris endured a daily struggle to focus on what he was being taught.

Slowly, Chris developed more language and I found some effective strategies for teaching him over the 10 years I have known him. We both began to realize that he had more ability than anyone imagined. With time and hard work, Chris has been able to learn basic communication and math skills as well as reading comprehension on a third grade level.

There is no adequate way to describe his enthusiasm and delight when volunteering at “the Garden.” The volunteer community at the Garden has embraced Chris and been supportive of his learning new tasks. Chris feels like a part of the team and he enjoys the praise and attention from others. Chris transforms into a more confident and self-assured young man when working side by side with other volunteers to complete projects and tasks. Chris’ experiences have helped him use known skills outside the school environment and learn to take direction from many different people. I believe that the other Garden volunteers have gotten as much from Chris as he has from them. The other volunteers admire and respect the hard work and perseverance he has shown. Chris’ experience at the Garden has given him a new perspective about what he can accomplish in his post high school endeavors.”

“My name is Chris Corsello. I work at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. My favorite things are helping with the plant sales and helping build a big “stick” house. I water plants and pull weeds. I like to work at the garden. The people are very nice and let me help them. Another thing I like is working outside. When I am at the Garden, I get to take a break from school. And if I do a very good job, Darlene [Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Volunteer Manager] might give me water and donuts!”

Chris lives with his parents Perry and Dianne Corsello in Richmond, VA.