CAROL COUILLARD, Paper Discovery Center

by Tim Froberg

As a history buff, Carol Couillard is right at home at the Paper Discovery Center.

Couillard has been the museum’s executive director for nearly seven years, coordinating short- and long-term objectives for the STEAM-based riverfront science center focused on local papermaking.

Couillard is a Negaunee, MI native who spent most of her childhood in the Tucson, Ariz. area. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a history degree before moving to Wisconsin in the mid-90s. Couillard worked as a retail sales manager, a program manager for the New London Public Museum, and as a library assistant in the School District of Waupaca prior to starting at the Paper Discovery Center in 2015.

“I’ve always had a fascination with museums,” Couillard said. “I’ve always been kind of a geek in that I like to find out new things about everything and anything.”

When she’s not dealing with museum details, Couillard enjoys gardening at her home in Waupaca and spending family time with her husband, Rob, and their two children, James, 15, and Matthew, 13.

What’s the best part of your job?

“When I started working here, I remember thinking, ‘What’s so exciting about paper?’ But then I found out it’s a really cool subject. We’re branching more into science, a lot more into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). I never thought I’d be interested in science, but I love learning about science and following STEAM careers and what that does for the community. And I love seeing all those little faces coming here for field trips and some of the older faces, too.”

What’s unique about the Discovery Center?

“The most obvious thing is the building because it used to be a working paper mill. We get so many people who come in with different stories about someone who worked here. And when they find out about all the different things that have been done through history with water power – like using the sun for light – it’s really relevant to what we’re trying to do today.” 

What’s your favorite exhibit?

“We did some remodeling during the pandemic and built an area for our letter press machines. They’re very old and the artwork you can make with them is amazing. It’s a really good thing to teach, especially with kids these days, because everything is touch of a button. Can you imagine setting a newspaper letter by letter?”

What’s new and/or on the horizon?

“We started an exhibit about women inventors and will be focusing on girls in STEAM. We’re going to have guest speakers and science fairs open to the public. We’re looking into starting a program called ‘Museums for All,’ where we offer reduced admission for people who are getting SNAP benefits. We want to make sure that anyone who wants to visit us, can visit us, regardless of how much money they make.”