After almost four years at the helm of the Gulf Coast Exploreum, Executive Director Jan McKay has resigned.

In a telephone interview, McKay said she’s leaving on her own terms to move back to the Cleveland, Ohio, area to take care of her ailing mother.

“I was on family leave most of last month, helping them out,” McKay said. “I need to get back up there and help my sisters out.”

McKay called her time at the science center since August 2014 a “wonderful, wonderful experience.”

“The staff has been wonderful to work with,” she said. “The Exploreum has come a long way.”

Since the time McKay took charge, the science center welcomed 12 traveling exhibits through its doors. The exhibits gave visitors a little bit of everything, which fit into McKay’s philosophy to present “all sciences, cultural, history and art” programs. The highlights of those traveling exhibits include Leonardo da Vinci, chocolate and guitars.

“There have been a lot of exhibits,” she said.

The focus on traveling exhibits brought with it an increase in attendance, McKay said. She also touted an increase in attendance among school groups, especially for a drug awareness exhibit that drew a 15 percent increase over normal attendance. For school groups that haven’t been to the Exploreum, McKay said outreach was a priority.

All of those efforts allowed McKay to leave the Exploreum better than when she took over, Board of Trustees Vice President David Trent said.

“The Exploreum has done well under her tenure,” Trent said. “She brought in a lot of special exhibits.”

McKay pointed out some challenges her replacement would need to address. For one, the center’s IMAX dome theater needs to go digital, she said, although this would carry a hefty price tag. She also mentioned better training for staff going forward.

The board doesn’t yet have a replacement for McKay in mind, but Trent said they would be embarking on a search shortly. It’s unclear whether the board will conduct a local search, a national search or both to find a new executive director. Each approach has its advantages, Trent said.

A local candidate could have a good idea of who the area donors are and have a good network to reach out to, he said, whereas a national candidate could have a good regional or national network of potential donors.

As for McKay, she has not yet found a job close to Cleveland but will continue to look.

The center’s current traveling exhibit is “Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs,” on display through June 3. According to the Exploreum website, the exhibit “showcases an amazing collection of fossils and models from this relatively unknown time period.”

General admission for the exhibits including the IMAX theater is $16 for adults,  $15 for ages 13 to 17, $13.50 for ages 7 to 12 and $8 for ages 4 to 6.

An exhibit-only admission costs $3 to $3.50 less, depending on age. Tickets for just the IMAX theater run $5 to $8.75, based on age. Memberships are also available.