Great River Children’s Museum
In 2018 the Great River Children's Museum, (GRCM) received a building worth $1,500,000 from Liberty Bank. Since receiving this gift, the Board of Directors has completed a Museum Strategic Master Plan with Vergeront Museum Planning, a predesign plan and building condition assessment with JLG Architects, a hazardous building materials assessment with Braun Intertec, and a marketing plan with Gearbox Marketing. The GRCM mission is "to create a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired through the extraordinary power of play." The GRCM website, https://greatrivercm.org/ provides a great overview of the efforts up to this point and highlights the effort to promote understanding and inclusion of diverse populations. With the funding provided by the Legacy Funds, the GRCM plans to hire staff to provide:
- building management
- financial and systems management
- business and strategic planning
- program and exhibit development and
- management of volunteers and future staff.
By September 2021, in conjunction with the architectural design plan, and museum master plan, exhibit development and building renovation will be coordinated and moving toward completion.
Myra Peffer (Bemidji, MN): Myra was the Executive Director of a children’s museum in Vermont, and has consulted with many museums (including the Children’s Discovery Museum) as a now-resident of Minnesota. She was recommended by the Children’s Discovery Museum, and recused herself of that scoring/discussion.
Bette Schmit (St Paul, MN): Bette Schmit is the Exhibit Developer at the Science Museum of Minnesota – recommended by Carol Aegerter, her expertise is in exhibit design and support.
Josh Ney (Minneapolis, MN): Josh Ney is a board member of the Minnesota Humanities Center, and also has experience working with the legislature and the Legacy Committee.
Minnesota Humanities Center
$625,000 each year is for grants to other children’s museums to pay for start-up costs or new exhibit and program development. Funds are to be distributed through a competitive grant process. The Minnesota Humanities Center must administer these funds using established grant mechanisms.
MEASURABLE OUTCOMES OF THE GRCM START-UP PROJECT
- EXHIBITS OUTCOMES
- Exhibits Plan: Complete the conceptual exhibit plan begun during the Museum Master Plan process. Move forward towards completion with Schematic and Final Development/Design coordinated with professional and consulting services - architects, exhibit designers and fabricators. The outcome will be fabrication and installation plans. The Legacy funds will be used to initiate the design process for the Great River exhibit which will reflect local history, cultural heritage and art connected to our relationship with the Mississippi River. The other exhibit that will be designed using these funds will be the Bridges to the World marketplace for cultural explorations.
- LEARNING PARTNERSHIPS OUTCOMES
- Formal and Higher Education: Move beyond the formative and early planning stages to develop potential collaborative arrangements such as co-staffing, student volunteer placements, shared and aligned curriculum, field trips, college student internships or practicums for future educators, joint training or research opportunities across different disciplines-from child development and education, non-profit management to marketing.
- PARENT-CHILD LEARNING IN A MUSEUM SETTING OUTCOMES
- Research: Families participating in GRCM events and activities prior to opening will steadily increase in numbers and in demographic range. Observations of interactions during play and feedback from parents and children will inform museum development of exhibits, programming, and practices.
- COMMUNITY PARTNERS OUTCOMES
- Beyond St. Cloud Metro: Implement five outreach events using mobile exhibits and activities to introduce the museum and connect with over 50 families in outlying areas to develop a regional audience.
- Community Organizations, Clubs, Service Groups: Continue to outreach and introduce the museum through presentations off-site or at the museum - in the community room; explore volunteer activities, develop partnering relationships around mutual community interests, secure donations for program development and scholarships for low income families.
- City of St. Cloud: Participate with Downtown Council, City of St. Cloud and downtown neighbors in mutually beneficial and collaborative way.
Who or what is expected to change as a result of the grant?
EXPECTED TO CHANGE
As an emergent museum, the board, committees and planning groups are looking towards the future, when the GRCM building is completed and exhibits installed. Loads of visitors will come through the doors, and leave with smiling faces. GRCM’s guiding vision, established in the Museum Master Plan, “is a welcoming and flourishing Greater St. Cloud where ALL children look forward to a future that offers expanding opportunities”. Anticipated improvements to quality of community life:
- St. Cloud businesses will see parents and children coming into the downtown area, giving it more vitality and a reputation for being family-friendly.
- School districts and private schools in the metro and rural areas will have a new partner. Home schooled children will have a new learning resource.
- St. Cloud will have a new jewel to go along with the relocated and newly built City Hall and other established, major cultural attractions – Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud Civic Center, Paramount, and Pioneer Theatres.
- GRCM will open its doors for business, becoming a permanent regional attraction and Central Minnesota cultural resource.
- Our children will be more knowledgeable, become better adults, and have more FUN and JOY!
The grant partially funded an Executive Director position & Program staff person to coordinate the following outcomes and expand and support our volunteer board and committees.
GRCM hired our first museum staff. An Executive Director was hired in July 2020 and has provided leadership in financial management- establishing a new accounting system, financial policies, guiding a successful audit and securing additional funding. The ED has also directed GRCM’s significant progress in facility renovation and exhibit development and coordinated committee work.
A Program & Outreach Manager was hired Feb. 2021 and has developed volunteer policies and training. She has also assisted with visiting exhibits and planned activities for community events, and piloted an onsite camp & field trips.
Exhibit Design-Legacy funds supported important progress on two exhibits- Bridges and Great Big River- An exhibits committee was created in late 2019 that developed exhibit concepts, reviewed 12 RFPs and selected the Split Rock Studios/Haizlip/KidZibits team for design, fabrication and installation of exhibits that began work in Feb. 2021. They conducted 6 groups- 2 kick-off sessions and four workshops with community members. They completed Schematic Design I in July and SD II in September. This process involved several different community groups in providing input and feedback to these exhibit proposals.
Mobile Exhibits- GRCM sponsored 2 visiting exhibits Storyland and Curious George from the Minnesota Children’s Museum that were supported by Legacy funds. These exhibits welcomed over 1,000 people into the museum building and provided preview experiences for families, early childhood and school programs. These experiences allowed GRCM to gain experience with assembling exhibits and establishing a COVID-safe protocols and cleaning routines for exhibit areas.
Office Equipment & Supplies supported staff and volunteer activities in the museum building and at community events.