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What kind of museum is it?


On Monday, I sat down with David Marskell, CEO of The Museum. Why and what I learned is an interesting story that I’ll share here since I was encouraged to “tell my friends.”

When the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum made a push earlier this year to increase funding from local municipal governments, I watched with interest. With a lifetime interest in arts and culture, living in downtown Kitchener and now with a young family, I wanted to be supportive of the museum, but something was holding me back. I had seen hints about a new direction and new name for the museum but I wasn’t sure what was happening and felt I needed that information before I could offer my support.

Sure there were the series of high profile successful, exhibits arriving in town but I didn’t see a common thread that tied them together. I also had trouble connecting them to my understanding of the mission of a Children’s Museum.

So when I saw a couple of Waterloo Region Record articles refer almost incidentally that the name had been changed to The Museum, I tweeted that these references begged the question, “What kind of museum?” One follower agreed and felt there was no clear vision. I disagreed about the lack of vision though the best I could do was refer to the hints.

At that point, I received an invitation to meet with David Marskell so that he could outline the direction they were heading. I happily accepted. In short, I understood that the intent was to create a general interest museum that would simultaneously target its exhibits to five age ranges. Keeping the name open ended would allow the museum the freedom to bring in the very best of all that is available or to initiate its own exhibits as it did with Warhol. In theory, a trip to the museum could have something for just about everyone in the family including a dedicated exhibit for kids—there would even be something for hip, urban adults without kids. I concluded that there was a vision that deserved support.

At this point, the details still seem a bit fuzzy to me and I believe that work still needs to be done to bring it sharply into focus so that it can begin to be implemented in a strategic manner. But with an increase in municipal funding secured for this year and time to plan, I am now cautiously optimistic about the museum’s future.

If everything unfolds as I expect, I am confident that The Museum will be able to make a strong case to the Creative Enterprise initiative for strong annual funding that will give it the stability it needs to fully develop into a treasured cultural asset—the kind of place in Marskell’s words “where a family from Cambridge comes on a Sunday just because they know they will enjoy the day no matter what the exhibits are or where you automatically take out of town guests.”

When we get there, we’ll know that we have a museum we could never live without.

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2 comments on “What kind of museum is it?

  1. I have visited The Museum twice now for 2 different exhibits-the dinosaurs and the Human Body and feel let down on both of them. The museum offers very little if you have no children to play around after the big show is done. And quite honestly, for what you get to see, the cost is way to high for admission. If this place wants to stay open, they need to get away from all the kiddie things and concentrate on making their “big” shows more worth while. While interesting and graphic, I would like to spend more than 30 minutes viewing an exhibit if I am paying $20 to get in. They need to take a lesson from the ROM. While the cost of admission may be higher, what you see once in is far more than anything you see at the museum and doesn’t leave one feeling ripped off after the tour.

  2. Yikes, what a bitter comment.

    Costs will stay “high” when there is no public funding. It’s a great question for the upcoming municipal elections: “What’s your position on ongoing/base funding for the Children’s Museum”? I know I’ll be asking it.

    As for getting “away from all the kiddie things”, how insulting to the children of this region. I thought the region’s motto was “children first”. Children are entitled to education and culture.

    ZS
    immigrantchildren.ca | @immigranttalk

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