Episode 45: Museum Maven Adam Smith

Episode 45 of the Mavens Do It Better Podcast features Adam Smith, Executive Director, Comic-Con Museum, San Diego, CA.  Adam is a twenty-year museum professional who is leading the conception, fund-raising, and build of the highly interactive Comic-Con Museum, a permanent year-round exhibit space devoted to popular art, comics, film, and television. The museum is presented by Comic-Con International and setting up shop at the previously titled Hall of Champions in Balboa Park in San Diego.  

Adam and Heather caught up virtually from San Diego, CA and Marina del Rey, CA. 

Listen in as Adam and Heather talk about: 

  • The exciting pop-up version of Comic-Con Museum that will take place during this year during the 50th San Diego Comic-Con. Discussing the preparations underway to activate all three floors of the 68,000 square foot building with exciting exhibits, programs, and experiences. The Pop-Up will feature The Batman Experience Powered by At&T, The Art of Comic-Con, Geek Couture: Designs from the Her Universe Fashion Show, Paint Like Bob Ross, Mondo Gallery: 80 Years of Batman and daily panels giving the broader community a taste of the great variety and depth of Comic-Con programming.  

  • A look into his twenty year career as a museum professional curating and building museums and programs from the ground up. His beginnings in Scotland getting his postgraduate degree from the University of St Andrews and working as a curator for the Museum of Flight at the National Museum of Scotland and adding in thoughts and guidance for those who also want to become a museum professional.  

  • A discussion of experiential programming including a look into technology, curating, the current state of how people view museums and attractions, a peek into some of Adam’s favorites and what he loves to see and is inspired by when he goes to other museums and how he brings everything he sees to his creativity and daily job.  

  • Thoughts on what it means to build a museum and celebrate the tradition that is Comic-Con. How  Adam and the team are bringing it to life listening to their fans and how fans of Comic-Con can be involved from day one through their Charter Membership program.  

To connect with Adam:  Adam LinkedIn 

Comic-Con Museum:  Sign up to become a museum insider | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Twitter  

Recommendations from Adam: Peterson Museum, LA |  Ghibili Museum, Japan | Meowwolf, Santa Fe NM | Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester NY | Corning Museum of Glass, Upstate NY | Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland OH | National WWII Museum, New Orleans LA |  

Adam Smith 

Born and raised in the UK, Adam obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Modern History from the University of Leeds, England and a Master's degree in Museum Studies from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. 

He worked in World War I, farming, golf, and coal mining museums, before being appointed in 1995 to lead the National Museum of Flight, located on a historic World War II airfield near Edinburgh.   During his tenure, the Museum saw a five-fold increase in attendance and the museum was the recipient of the country’s highest accolade for excellence in tourism.  In 1998 Adam was invited to Buckingham Palace to be honored as a “Young Achiever” by the Queen of England.  In 1999-2001 he curated the first international touring exhibit on the history and culture of video games and served as a Board member of the Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board.   

Adam came to the United States in 2001 to run the EAA AirVenture Museum, a world-class facility in Oshkosh, Wisconsin that houses over two hundred historic aircraft.  He was also responsible for programming EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the world’s largest air show, with over 700,000 annual attendees.  

More recently Adam was Executive Vice President with the Commemorative Air Force, the world’s largest flying Museum, operating 170 vintage military planes.  He spearheaded the design of a world-class museum in Dallas and led the campaign to save and restore the lead aircraft in the D-Day invasion.  

In October 2017 Adam moved to San Diego, to lead the Comic-Con Museum, planned to be an exciting new year-round visitor attraction located in Balboa Park.  Smith is an instrument-rated pilot, collector of pinball machines and an avid fan of his soccer team, Burnley. 

Comic-Con Museum Pop-Up at San Diego Comic-Con – July 17th – 21, 2019 

A pop-up version of the Comic-Con Museum will be open in Balboa Park each day during Comic-Con! No SDCC badge is required to enter, and admission is free for the whole community. 

Preparations are underway to activate all three floors of the 68,000 square foot building with exciting exhibits, programs, and experiences. Specific features and attractions of the pop-up Museum will include: 

The Batman Experience Powered by AT&T, an interactive, immersive experience that includes one of the largest-ever exhibits of Batman-related comics, art, games, props, costumes, and vehicles. Click here for more information! 

Cover Story: The Art of Comic-Con 50, an acclaimed display of original art exploring 50 years of Comic-Con program book covers. First unveiled in March, the exhibit will have an exciting new addition: the original Jim Lee artwork that graces the milestone 50th anniversary cover. 

Daily panels in the Museum theater, organized by Comic-Con.  Four panels per day will give the broader community a taste of the great variety and depth of Comic-Con programming. Full details will be announced as we reveal the complete Comic-Con programming schedule. 

Geek Couture: Designs from the Her Universe Fashion Show, for the first time, an exhibition featuring more than a dozen designs that have graced the Her Universe Fashion Show runway over the past five years. The exhibit will be expanded following the conclusion of the 2019 Fashion Show on Thursday night to include this year’s winning designs and select gowns worn by Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein. 

Paint Like Bob Ross,in collaboration with Bob Ross, Inc., is a make-and-take art class where visitors can learn to paint like TV’s Bob Ross, under the supervision of a Certified Ross Instructor. 

Mondo Gallery: 80 Years of Batman, the first ever traveling exhibit from the Mondo Gallery in Austin, Texas, celebrating the history of Batman through 19 iconic and fan-favorite comic-book covers, reproduced as screen-printed posters. 

A first-look at all the exhibits is available to attendees at The Gathering, the Museum’s inaugural fundraising event, on the evening of Wednesday, July 17. The program includes a special ceremony inducting Batman into the Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame. Tickets are available at www.ccmgathering.org, including an after-party option from 9pm-midnight, for those attending Preview Night. 

The pop-up Museum will be open starting at 9.30 AM each day, Thursday through Sunday. It is intended to represent an early preview of what to expect from the finished Comic-Con Museum when it opens in 2021 after renovations. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about the project, and guests will be invited to support the Museum by joining as a Charter Member, with various levels of membership benefit on offer. 

Essential Information 


Thursday, July 18–Saturday, July 20: 9:30 AM–7:00 PM 

Sunday, July 21: 9;30 AM to 5:00 PM 


Admission is free, and everyone is welcome. A Comic-Con badge is not required for entry.  If the building reaches its capacity, there will be a single-entry line, organized on a first-come-first-served basis. 


Comic-Con Museum, Balboa Park, on some maps the Museum may still be labeled as ”Hall of Champions” (the previous occupants of the building). 

Street address: 2131 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA 92103 

Parking/How to Get There 

The Museum is surrounded by three free parking lots, but they may be filled to capacity during peak hours. Free shuttles are available from other parking lots in the park. Click here for a parking map and more information.  

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a shuttle service to the Museum this year. Especially at peak times, rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber can be a good option to get to and from the Museum from downtown locations. More information on how to get to Balboa Park, including walking, electric scooters, bikes, and public transportation, can be found on the Balboa Park Website. 

Amenities and Access 

The building is wheelchair accessible. The Museum contains an elevator to all three levels, ample restrooms, and a small café serving drinks, sandwiches, and snacks. Free wifi is available, provided by Balboa Park. Seventeen other museums and art galleries are also located in the Park, along with the world-famous San Diego Zoo. 


Entry to the Museum is on a first-come-first-served basis and is not guaranteed. 

Some individual activities inside the Museum (panel presentations, for example) are subject to capacity limits and are also offered on a first-come-first-served basis.  

The Bob Ross class is being offered on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on a first come-first-served basis, one class from 11am-1pm; another from 3 pm to 5 pm. The capacity of each class is 20, participants must be age 16+, and all supplies are provided. 

The Museum does not have a gift shop, and no merchandise will be on sale, outside of the items associated with the Museum Charter Membership program. 

Additional questions - please emai l museumops@comic-con.org 

Heather Newman

Heather Newman is an award-winning marketing maven, technology entrepreneur and an epic connector that brings many worlds together. She has extensive experience marketing products and services for Enterprise businesses, startups and emerging markets. Heather builds plans and processes that are nimble, human and different. She is an adept storyteller and is passionate about growth for both employees and the corporate bottom-line. Heather hails from the arts and the bulk of her career has been working with the largest technology companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, NetApp, Hewlett Packard, and Dell). Her nineteen years of experience working at technology companies and building global high-tech marketing strategy has driven millions of dollars of revenue and multiple award-winning campaigns. She has led global marketing teams for many technology companies including AvePoint, IT Unity & KnowledgeLake. Heather was a part of the original Microsoft SharePoint Marketing team. During her tenure, she helped launch multiple versions of the product, build the SharePoint Partner Ecosystem and conceived of and produced the first three Microsoft SharePoint Conferences. Creative Maven has produced thousands of global marketing campaigns and events. Currently CM is focusing on go to market strategies for Microsoft and its partners as well as a new site sister site launching in 2015 called Marketingfixer.com. Heather also serves as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Panda, an innovative technology startup looking to actively disrupt how content is delivered inside software.