Presented at ACM InterActivity 2017, Pasadena, CA
In Dialogue with International Children’s Museums
“Connecting Funding Opportunities with Project Milestones”
By Lee Skolnick, FAIA, Principal and Jo Ann Secor, Principal, Director of Interpretive Services
Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership
To “In Dialogue” Attendees: thank you for attending our session. In this post, we will share with you the content of our presentation, with some elaboration, for your reference.
For many emerging institutions, raising the initial financial support is the biggest challenge. Learn about some strategies for combining the initial concept development of your project with the tools you will need to cultivate funding for its planning and implementation. We will also discuss ongoing cultivation opportunities as your project progresses.
WHO WE ARE
We are an integrated full-service architecture and exhibit design firm with special expertise in interpretive exhibition design, institutional planning, program development, master planning, educational programming, and graphic design. Since 1980, our firm has provided these services to over 60 children’s museums plus a wide array of cultural and educational institutions. We are educators and audience advocates with extensive experience working with Start-ups and Emerging Museums.
WHAT WE DO
STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING SUPPORT
These can take a variety of different forms…
1. FIND AN “ANGEL“ TO JUMPSTART THE PROJECT
• Engage Individual Philanthropists to provide visioning and financial support
• Contact Philanthropic Foundations to provide professional advisement and potential
financial support, especially during the planning and development of your project
• Align with Government Agencies and other relevant municipal/community
organizations that can provide regulatory advice and information on grants and other
• Identify Cultural Institutions that are supportive of your vision/mission in order to
provide the following:
• Organizational support to include board, advisers, and staff development
• Guidance on seeking exhibition and programmatic assistance
• Cultivating community support and potential advisers
• Identify opportunities to host collaborative events/exhibits
• Counseling on fiscal responsibilities and considerations
2. CREATE A PILOT PROJECT TO BUILD SUPPORT
Each of the examples listed below began as smaller “pilot projects”.
Long Island Children’s Museum, Garden City, NY
Long Island Children’s Museum (LICM) began as a pilot project housed in the offices of the Long Island Lighting Company’s facility in Garden City, NY. The generous support provided by LILCO allowed this emerging institution the opportunity to offer four small exhibitions and an activity classroom. LHSA+DP was retained to design two new exhibits for this space: one featured an interactive exhibit on the Long Island Railroad and the other was on communication called, “Communication Station”.
The other two exhibits were created by the Boston Children’s Museum. Long Island Children’s Museum purchased the exhibition plans from which LHSA+DP developed the final exhibit. This pilot project demonstrated the need for such an institution for families on Long Island and its success secured the creation of the current, permanent museum.
Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga, TN
This project was born out of the desire and interest of the education director of the Hunter Museum of Art, who approached the board at HMA in the early 1990’s to create an interactive children’s gallery. The board felt this was not aligned with their mission, however, they agreed to support the creation of a children’s museum in Chattanooga, TN. As a result, several of the board members offered to assist her in the launch of this new endeavor. The initial phase for the creation of the Creative Discovery Museum involved development of the museum’s mission and vision along with the four key exhibition areas: Art, Music, Invention, and Field Science.
Preliminary exhibit ideas were turned into activities, premiered, and tested in the “Creative Discovery Museum Tent” at the Riverbend Music Festival.
This multi-day event garnered tremendous support and enthusiasm for the project. Major local donors came forward to expedite the design and construction of this new cultural facility.
Children’s Museum of the East End, Bridgehampton, NY
LHSA+DP was contacted by the director of the Guild Hall Museum, who was in meetings with a group of mothers eager to start a children’s museum on the eastern end of Long Island. Based on our experience with emerging children’s museums, we met with the group, who brought diverse expertise to the planning of this new cultural facility. Ideas quickly emerged to create a museum that explored local aspects of life and the natural environment.
Through the generosity of the museum and the director, a gallery was dedicated to the creation of a pilot project exhibition that would feature interactive activities around fishing, farming, the historic artists’ community, and local history.
The success of this endeavor led to an expanded support base for the museum, both programatically and financially, allowing them to purchase land and build their current, permanent facility.
Muzeiko: America for Bulgaria Children’s Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria
A Sofia-based university professor of archaeology, who was also a parent, developed a series of interactive “children’s corners” for several art, history, and science museums in Bulgaria.
These proved to be highly successfully in attracting children and families to these traditional, cultural institutions. The America for Bulgaria Foundation, involved in funding several of these initiatives, became aware of the phenomena of US-based children’s museums from which these “corners” were modeled. They sponsored a competition for the creation of such an institution for Sofia, Bulgaria that would have a science-based approach to learning. LHSA+DP was awarded the project to realize the design of the building and exhibitons. Muzeiko, was opened in the fall of 2015. The project was a true collaboration between community resources and expertise and best practices in creating children’s museums.
3. CULTIVATE STAKEHOLDERS TO SUPPORT PHASE ONE
Three key areas to focus on in cultivating support are…
It is critical to engage the community in the creation and ongoing “growth and evolution” of the
museum. The museum must be a responsive reflection of its community and the community needs to
feel a strong sense of “ownership” of the museum and what it stands for.
Key stakeholders are the decision makers who reflect the policies and programs of the community.
They can help shepherd the project through government approvals and identify potential funding
sources and partnerships.
Cultivating financial support early on is critical to establishing a strong institutional foundation
and to allow for essential planning and program development, including activities such as the
creation of an Interpretive Master Plan.
4. DEVELOP AN INTERPRETIVE MASTER PLAN TO CRYSTALIZE
AND SHARE THE VISION
An Interpretive Master Plan can accomplish a variety of things, including…
• Developing and defining the vision of the institution
• Establishing strategies and approaches for interpretation and design
• Building upon and expanding support locally, politically, and financially
• Creating a groundswell of support and overall excitement for the project
Developing and Defining the Vision
VISITOR EXPERIENCE CRITERIA
to establish project parameters, such as Mission, Core Idea, Target Audiences, Communication Goals, Key Messages, Themes & Topics, Modes of Interpretation and Experience Qualities
to communicate in visual form the organizational approach to the content
to communicate in visual form the relationships and major components of the exhibitions and museum
VISITOR EXPERIENCE NARRATIVE
to convey in narrative form the entirety of the visitor experience, from beginning to end, including all major interpretive and interactive elements
to represent in an illustrative form major exhibit areas and experiences
VIRTUAL FLYTHROUGH (optional)
to simulate in animated form the experience from a visitor’s point-of-view of every area of the exhibition
5. DEVELOP & LAUNCH FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGNS TO
SHARE THE VISION
Products to Support Museum Fundraising
PROJECT VISION BOOK
presents in one document the overall project vision, audience(s), impacts to community, project narrative, and design concepts
presents a distilled version of the project and rationale for funding that is easy to comprehend
PRESS RELEASES & PACKETS
maintaining a presence in the community through ongoing announcements and updates keeps the community engaged and helps to strengthen relationships with potential stakeholders
OTHER MARKETING MATERIALS
Social media, advertisements, articles, websites, televised news, and radio programs are all viable venues to disseminate your message
Activities to Support Fundraising
There are a variety of creative ways to present your organization’s mission and activities. Here is a sampling…
• Stakeholder Engagement
• Private Cultivation Meetings
• Public Presentations
• Media Coverage
• Grant Applications
• Government, Corporate, and Philanthropic Cultivation
• Kickstarter Campaign
Continue Building Support: Ongoing Activities and Products
Through the professional collaboration with designers, educators, evaluators, and others, a variety of events and products can be created that serve to further inform the community about the important and valued work of the organization.
MOCKUPS & PROTOTYPES
FOCUS GROUPS & EVALUATIONS
COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEES
STAKEHOLDER BRAINSTORMING & DESIGN CHARRETTES
PUBLIC EVENTS (FESTIVALS, MAKER FAIRES, ETC.)
Sequence of Strategies for Building Support
Forge Strategic Partnerships with Local Resources
It’s crucial to be both engaged with and reflective of one’s community. Therefore, seeking out synergistic partnerships that benefit both the museum and other partners is highly desirable. Here are some options to explore…
• Community Organizations
• Align with an Existing Institution
• Become a Satellite of an Existing Institution
Thank you for visiting our blog – We’re here to help!
Please contact Jo Ann Secor, Principal, Director of Interpretive Services at firstname.lastname@example.org