Otter Cove Children’s Museum
Otter Cove Children's Museum will be a state-of-the-art educational and cultural center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, providing a much-needed accessible, indoor play space for the children of Otter Tail County and beyond. Otter Cove was started and driven by a group of moms but the actual place, Otter Cove, is for children and the "critters" who live there; the otter in the Otter Romp Playground, the fox at the cafe, the beaver at the dentist office, the raccoon at the grocery store, the swan on the stage, the mice at the bookstore, and the skunk at the veterinarian. Every detail at Otter Cove is designed to look and feel like a true destination that guests are transported into as they walk through the door. Furthermore, the region's landscape, agricultural influence, businesses and art scene are visible as the actual exhibits and core components of the museum's play structure, miniature downtown, farm and field, and art and maker space. The beneficiaries of the museum will be the young people visiting the museum who lack imaginative, creative, educational and physical play options in the region. Families and caregivers will appreciate a place where connections and community foster, especially in the winter. Family connections will grow, as the museum is an experience that will have impacts across generations - parents and their children, grandparents with their grandchildren, families and caregivers across the spectrum. It's exciting that Otter Cove will be the only children's museum with an indoor play structure in a 180 mile radius, ultimately helping increase traffic for local businesses from the additional visitors in town. We have heard countless employers donate to the project because they are excited to attract and retain young talent with this unique amenity. Childcare providers and school groups will also benefit from having an educational destination for field trips that is local.
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.
Our Proposed Measurable Outcomes are as follows:
- Having a visitor return rate of 70% by the end of the first year.
- Have a membership renewal rate of 85% by the end of the first year.
- Engage 40% of licensed daycares in Otter Tail county in membership opportunities.
- Have four free admission Saturdays during our first calendar year where Otter Cove becomes available and accessible to anyone and everyone.
- Have six low sensory events, outside of normal museum hours, where children can engage with our exhibits who may not normally visit during busy times.
Otter Cove Children's Museum was ready for its grand opening when COVID struck in March 2020. Our team immediately went into survival mode and began fundraising to pay for our rent, unsure how long we would have to remain closed. It was a painful feeling, knowing how isolated everyone was and that we had a fully completed, state-of-the-art children's museum in the heart of downtown, just waiting for visitors to come play. Starting in July 2020, we began hosting private rentals with no more than 40 people at a time. We also gave private tours to our amazingly supportive donors who were anxious to see the completed space. The response was incredible. Friends would join together to rent the space just so their kids could play. We started tracking zip codes and realized how far people were traveling to play at Otter Cove, even during a pandemic. We held a series of open-air art classes in the Maker Shop; these were some of the only children's and adult programs available during the summer and fall of 2020. We are proud that we could offer creative opportunities for our community while following COVID safety protocol. Despite the pandemic, we achieved our goal of becoming a regional gathering ground for children and families. We are also proud of Otter Cove's impact on the local economy. Often when guests leave the museum, they ask staff for recommendations of great local restaurants. If a child is having a difficult time leaving Otter Cove, caregivers will often tempt them with a trip to Uncle Eddie's Ice Cream, just down the street from Otter Cove.